Ana Villafañe is a beautiful actress that starred in the Broadway production of Emilio and Gloria Estefan, On Your Feet. She’s also starred in South Beach and pretty soon you will see her on the big screen in Max Steel. What many don’t know is that she’s been dealing with arthritis since the age of 7 and despite this, it hasn’t prevented her from achieving her goals.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are about 300,000 children under the age of 18 that have some type of juvenile arthritis or rheumatic condition. The disease can affect children as young as two years old. They have to deal with everyday pain in their joints or muscles, stiffness, swelling, fevers, eye problems, and even fevers.
“You could be fine today, but then the next day you could show up in a wheelchair and you are labeled as dramatic, but you are dealing with something 24/7; it’s something that spikes from one minute to another, so it’s always there,” explains Villafañe. Juvenile arthritis is an invisible disease that if left untreated, the visible effects of the disease could develop such as the deformation of your hands or swollen joints. Arthritis is something that a lot of people don’t know much about because it’s associated with an older demographic.
She describes the disease as a surprise party because you never know when you’re going to feel pain. When she was diagnosed with the disease she was very young and very active, she loved to run, play soccer and even take dance classes. The disease took a toll on her body and her daily activities because there were days when she couldn’t do certain things. “There were chapters in my life when I was in a wheelchair so that made it a little bit difficult because I couldn’t use my body the way I wanted to, so that’s when I started turning to music,” she explains. Despite her illness, she was always a happy kid, always wanting to sing and dance and perform for her family.