Lauren Houchin Overcoming Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis to do what she loves
She has been dancing for 13 years, since she was three years old. She takes jazz dance classes and does competitive dance. She has hour long practices on at least five nights a week. Some days she has two classes on the same night. She is Lauren Houchin.
Lauren was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) in May of 2009. JRA is an inflammation of the joints that causes pain and swelling. Lauren has to take four pills in the morning and four pills at night everyday to treat JRA. She also gets one shot on Friday, and one on Sunday. Every two months she goes to Vanderbilt to get a checkup.
Lauren’s friends are there for her through everything. Friends treat Lauren the same since she was diagnosed, but are more careful around her. She says, “I’m more fragile now.” This makes her a perfect fit for the character she portrays in a competitive dance routine.
Her Jazz and Performance Troupe instructor has been a big influence on Lauren’s dancing. Lauren says, "She pushes me to my capability but not past anything that would hurt." She recognizes Lauren has limits and pushes her to meet those limits. She holds Lauren to the same expectations as the other dancers, and doesn't cut her any slack.
Immense concentration is apparent on Lauren’s face when she dances. She makes sure she is keeping up with the other dancers and doesn’t fall behind. She constantly checks herself in the mirror to make sure she perfects the moves she is doing. Watching her dance there is no indication that she has JRA, she doesn’t allow it to affect her performance.
Exercise, and especially stretching is very helpful in the treatment of JRA. It can help build strength and endurance. Stiff, sore joints are common among sufferers of JRA. Stretching can help restore flexibility lost due to stiff joints. Dancing requires constant movement and extreme flexibility from the dancer. Lauren has to take more breaks and do extra stretching compared to others in her dance class.
Dancing and simple movements tend to cause a lot of pain for Lauren. “It hurts! My hips always seem to slow me down.” When in pain those who suffer from arthritis tend to want to sit still and not do anything, but doing the opposite is better for them. By not letting her JRA hold her back from dancing, she is helping maintain the range of motion that arthritis can limit.
Moves that are difficult to those without JRA can be even more difficult for Lauren to execute. They are often very painful for her. She does not let this keep her from doing the difficult moves. “Some things hurt more than others. The kicks really hurt.” She pushes through the pain to master new moves.
“I feel behind and not up to par with everyone.” Though she may feel this way, JRA does not make her any less of a dancer than her peers. She has won numerous awards including, Dancer of the Year, and Gold (the highest rating) at dance competitions.
Lauren is a great example of how limits should not be placed on people with JRA. Those with JRA are just as capable of being normal teenagers as those without JRA and should be treated as such. Lauren is a person that others with JRA should live up to as an example of how not to let JRA limit them.