COLONIE: Walking past the pain

They also got a taste of how deceptive it could be.

Last February, Meghan's condition went into full remission. There was no sign of the arthritis for six months. In some cases it will go into remission, never to show up again, said Mitchell. That wasn't the case for Meghan.

Meghan's arthritis returned after six months, and it returned with a vengeance. Again, an optometrist recognized the swelling in Meghan's eyes. When the time came to tackle her condition once again with medication, the arthritis had spread to her fingers, Mitchell said.

"I have to be more careful with what I do. If it's too strenuous, it may hurt me," Meghan said. "I can't always go out and play with my friends and sometimes miss school because of doctor's visits."

What keeps Meghan going and able to live through the aching joints and stiffness is a "cocktail" of medications.

Meghan's cocktail includes non-steroidal medications; Remicade, a biologic agent used to treat inflammatory disorders; daily eye drops; and Methotrexate, a drug commonly used in conjunction with chemotherapy for cancer patients.

Meghan's monthly dose of Remicade, which has to be administered by a physician, costs the family $60,000 a year. And when Meghan goes to receive Methotrexate, she has to get the drug at an Albany oncology lab.

As she sits in the waiting room for a doctor to administer the drug, children battling cancer stare at her and parents wonder why her child has hair and is able to walk to and from the appointments, said Mitchell.

It makes Meghan feel guilty every time, she said.

"It's not so much that I'm scared. I just feel out of place. It feels like I shouldn't be there," said Meghan.

The experience has changed her outlook on life, and has made her realize that no matter how bad her arthritis may seem some days, some have greater obstacles to overcome.

Meghan and her mother will be walking at the 2007 Arthritis Walk on Saturday, May 12. It will begin at Sand Creek Middle School and make its way to The Crossings of Colonie.

Meghan has been named this year's Honorary Youth Walk Chair.

The annual walk is one of the largest fundraisers of the Northeast Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation. Last year, 400 people walked in the event at the school and raised roughly $36,000.

To join in the walk, visit www.arthritis.org or call 456-1203.""

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