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I have osteoarthritis in my knees. I’m only 29. Most people with this disease are over 50.
My diagnosis in early 2017 was the worst moment of my life. The doctor told me I’d be in pain for the next twenty years. Then she told me I could never play sports again.
That was the hardest thing to hear. I’ve played sports all my life. I love it more than anything.
Until my diagnosis, I played in a football league every week. I had to tell my teammates that I couldn’t play anymore. It hurt, but I had to protect my health.
I saw my surgeries as just another obstacle to overcome
When I was in high school, I underwent multiple knee surgeries. They gave me the tools to be resilient now. I saw my surgeries as just another obstacle to overcome. I was super competitive. I mapped out what I’d work on and set goals for myself. For instance, in physical therapy, instead of riding for ten minutes, I’d ride for fifteen minutes. I proved to myself then that I could overcome anything.
Before the diagnosis, I never told anyone about the pain I was experiencing. But now I tell people about my osteoarthritis. Opening up has helped me build a support system. It’s been amazing to experience the kindness of my friends. I’ve learned how important friendships are, because I need people to help me through this.
I’ve coped by learning as much as I can. I researched ways to alleviate tension in my knees. I made friends with orthopedic surgeons so that I can turn to experts when I need information.
I’m learning to manage my physical pain. If I walk too far, it gets worse. So I make sure to practice self-care to alleviate it. And, actually—as much as I hated to give up sports—letting them go has lessened the pain.
I try to be really grateful for everything I can still do. It can always be worse. Sometimes I’m upset because it hurts to walk—but at least I can walk.
I try to be really grateful for everything I can still do
And now that I’m not playing sports, I have time for other things that I’m excited about. I’m planning to start a nonprofit for young female athletes, who injure their knees and hips much more than male athletes do. It will provide education and support. And it will create a network for injured women to talk to others who’ve gone through the same thing. I want to turn my experience into something positive for others.
Cherizza is passionate about sports and was an athlete—until it was taken away from her. She’s now using everything she’s learned on the court and applying it other places, especially in her career.