KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An East Tennessee mother and daughter don’t just share a close bond. They also share a debilitating condition: Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Paula Sellers and her daughter Hannah took part in this year’s Jingle Bell 5k benefiting the Arthritis Foundation of Tennessee. They wore matching outfits Hannah made herself. It was much more than a fashion fitness moment.
The mother and daughter live with the daily effects of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. The two are doing all they can to help find a cure and live life to the fullest.
“It’s been very helpful to have someone I know who loves me, has been through it, go with it with me together,” Hannah said.
The matriarch of the family, Nan, has helped them remain the strong women they were born to be. Paula was diagnosed at the age of 16 months. At first, doctors thought she might have polio.
“I wore braces most of my childhood and they were just trying to figure out what to do, and they never really gave up on me.”
Hannah learned she has Juvenile Arthritis later than her mom did as a child. She was in fifth grade.
“Even though we’ve been on this journey together, “ Hannah said, “she’s been on it way longer than I have. It’s been a different journey; both of our conditions manifested in different ways.”
Through it all, they have not let arthritis rule their lives. Paula is the Director of Student Services for Anderson County Schools. Hannah was just honored at the Jingle Bell Run for being an ambassador for the cause.
“When a lot of people do hear arthritis they think of maybe someone older. One time I had a classmate ask if my joints really did hurt when it rained outside. People just don’t know,” said Hannah. “It was important to me that I was now going to be visible for kids to see that, ‘yeah, I can have this condition and I can live with it and hey I can also go to college, I can be a student and do everything else everyone can.’”
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Hannah is graduating this semester from the University of Tennessee with a degree in anthropology. Like her mother, she never gives up.
“You do deal with a lot so it’s stressful, and you want to keep up with work and family and activities and I encourage her to do that as well, “ Paula said. “You can’t give up. You have to keep going, you have to show people that there’s a lot more to life than just sitting back and doing nothing and staying at home.”
The Arthritis Foundation of Tennessee depends on donations year-round. If you’d like to make a difference visit arthritis.org.