Hey my name is Cal Baron. I was diagnosed with Enthesitis related arthritis when I was 11. I’m now 17. When I was diagnosed with ERA I was scared. I didn’t know what was happening to my joints. I was in a lot of pain and walked with a bad limp. Some days I couldn’t even walk. I was truly frightened for what was to come.

My main concern about getting diagnosed with this disease was if I would be able to get back doing sport. I played every sport…. football, rugby hockey and cricket. Unfortunately there where a few sports I couldn’t go back to but I was able to get involved in new sports.

I tried new sports  like rowing and basketball. The main thing that I kept telling myself was never to give up. Keep trying and enjoying what you love. Living with Era was very hard especially going into secondary school. I was thinking about things like….. will I be include in things …. will I be able to keep up with everyone when it comes to sports and academics?? Luckily the school I went is very supportive. If I miss school they email the work but alway understand if I’m not up to it. I get extra support when I return. But more importantly the friend group that I have don’t see me as the person who has ERA they see me as Cal and I really appreciate them for that.

Recently I have transition from children services to adult services. ERA id known as Ankylosing spondylitis or AS in adult service.  Moving to adult is scary. It’s a difficult thing to get your head around. I was very thankful for the mentors and adults in iCan who had transitioned before I me. I could talk to them and ask questions. I got great advice and I can say I am a lot happier in adult services. I’m in St. James’s and I get on so we’ll with my consultant and my physio. I’m not afraid to ask questions about my arthritis. They give me answers so that’s even better.

ICan have given me so many tools from going to workshops, teen weekends, transition weekend, days out, meeting up for pizza to name just some of the things …. but most importantly iCan are a big family.

When I was younger I was so scared of talking in front of people or reading aloud in class because I’m dyslexic. ICAN gave me the confidence and the fighting spirt by asking me to do an interview about my journey. I was also a part of the YPAP team with Siobhan O’Higgins. It was amazing. I have met so many people all over Ireland through ICAN who I can throughly say they are going to be friends and family for life.

The one thing I would say to anyone who has JIA is to never let your arthritis control your life you are in control and if you have dreams and things you love doing go for it and never stop

Stay strong Cal