For Kacee Andujar, battling arthritis has been a lifelong challenge, starting from when she was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the tender age of 16 months. Since then, her struggle has been wrought with financial, emotional, and physical burdens that made her future look grim.
A few years back, while on a trip to Tennessee, Kacee and her mother, Holly, visited family friends and took a small break from the constant shuffle between doctors they had been doing, seemingly without a glimmer of hope in sight. The two were basking in all the kind words and gestures they received regarding Kacee’s debilitating disease. After months of struggling, they were exhausted and relieved to finally feel warm and comfortable in the company of loved ones.
However, the events that followed that day were so shocking, all Holly could do was watch in awe and keep her faith. It completely changed the trajectory of her and her family’s life and offered her a sign of hope. ..
As a baby, around fourteen months old, Kacee began to limp. After a few weeks, she ceased to walk altogether, when before her limping, she was a child who could not sit still. Holly was worried. She had no idea what had come over her daughter. Finally, after an exhausting search, Holly found a doctor that credited Kacee’s condition as that of an arthritis patient’s and not just a hypochondriac’s.
However, Kacee and Holly were not out of the woods just yet. The doctor was unfortunately unknowledgeable about arthritis and failed to deliver the proper treatments Kacee needed.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis prevented Kacee from engaging in the activities many of her friends could as a child. When she was younger, she desperately wanted to try gymnastics, but whenever she landed a jump, shockwaves would ripple throughout her body, causing pain and discomfort that lasted for hours. In an effort to be “normal” and still do the types of things children without arthritis were allowed to do, Kacee tried to keep her pain a secret from her family.
Because of the arthritis, Holly could not find a childcare provider to look after her daughter during the day, causing her to quit her job. She also had to move her family into a new apartment located on the ground floor of their building because Kacee could not climb the stairs to their home. Holly also feared that Kacee’s condition was taking precedence over her family and that her older daughter, Samantha, was being neglected.
Finally, their local doctor prescribed Naproxen, but unfortunately Kacee had to be taken off of the drug after the first month because her liver could not process it. The only other method of treatment her rheumatologist suggested was physical therapy, but going three days per week for over two years yielded little results. She had shoe insoles to prevent her feet from turning in any further than they already were and leg braces to aid in ensuring her legs were not permanently bent. Hot baths were the only remedy that seemed to keep the pain and stiffness at bay. Just a small child, Kacee was nearly crippled.
Kacee’s knees doubled in size and grew larger than Holly’s. After chasing doctors and begging for answers, being denied Medicaid, and being bound by insurance, Kacee and her family had been through the ringer. Holly’s primary care would not send her to a different doctor because it was located upwards of 150 miles away from her home. She was trapped.
It was then that the girls decided to take a holiday and visit their loved ones in Tennessee. While all huddled in the living room of a dear friend, one of Holly’s friends brought over a small dish of oil. She dipped her fingers in it and anointed Kacee, gently wiping the oil across her forehead. Everyone in the room joined hands and became silent. Together they prayed that Kacee would somehow find some sort of reprieve from the condition that haunted her for the entirety of her life. They asked for help, they asked for strength, and they asked for a solution…
Two days later, settled back at home, Holly and her family were going about their usual daily routine when something very out of the ordinary happened: Kacee stood up. While her legs were not completely straight, she was able to walk. Somehow, something, unaided by any type of medication, allowed Kacee to stand on her own two feet and move like she used to.
Was it a miracle? You can decide. But since then, the pain has grown significantly less and Kacee has gone into non-medical remission. She is able to lead as much as a normal life as she can, but her family is always on alert and prepared should her arthritis ever flare up again. Her swelling and pain have decreased and she has not seen a doctor in eight years. Kacee and her family currently live in Georgia and launched their own blog chronicling her story. She is passionate about spreading arthritis awareness and is hoping to plan an art auction to raise money for the disease next fall.
Read more about the Arthritis National Research Foundation and the quest to cure arthritis.