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Youth Force
Disease a daily reminder of the work ahead

By Joy Mitchell
Special to The Sun

Christina Scicluna is breaking down assumptions that arthritis is only a disease that affects the elderly.
Christina Scicluna, a student of Centennial College's Corporate Communications graduate certificate program, is completing her studies with the help of Centennial's Centre for Students with Disabilities.

The student of Centennial College's Corporate Communications graduate certificate program was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was a teenager.

"I first started having pain when I was 15, but didn't get diagnosed until I was 17," Scicluna says. "My doctor told me it was just aches and pains, although it was hard to walk."

No cure

Rheumatoid arthritis causes swelling in the lining of the joints and other internal organs. It affects a lot of joints throughout the body and damages cartilage, bone, tendons and ligaments. "It's a lifelong disease and there's no cure for it right now," she says.

Scicluna is in constant pain every day, but during the winter semester, 2004, the pain became unbearable. She was bedridden because her joints were swollen and she was prescribed heavy painkillers to deal with it.

"It lasted almost three months," Scicluna recalls. "I would wake up feeling fine, but in the afternoon, it would flair up again. I couldn't go to school."

As a result, she made arrangements with her professors to work on her assignments at home; Centennial's Centre for Students with Disabilities (CSD) helped her to manage her course load.

CSD assists students by making sure they have the physical and educational support they need to successfully finish school requirements through numerous resources, including communicating with faculty, adapting technology and coordinating services.

"Because of the help I received from CSD, I only had to come to campus to touch base with my instructors," Scicluna says.

Support from her peers and teachers, combined with her personal strength and determination, helped Scicluna to complete the semester successfully. She passed all her courses even though she was unable to attend many of her classes.

Her experience has taught her a lot about herself. "I've learnt that even though something may be hard, as long as you have determination and support, you can conquer anything," Scicluna says.
  • Centennial's Corporate Communications program is a one-year graduate certificate program of interest to college and university graduates looking for a second skill set.
  • The program is getting a new name this fall -- Corporate Communications and Public Relations -- to reflect the strong public relations component of the studies.
  • York University students who have completed two years of an arts degree can study at Centennial concurrently and earn the graduate certificate at the same time as their degree.
  • For more information, visit:

  • Her education and her first-hand experience with arthritis have landed her a job with the Arthritis Society as a communications officer, long before her graduation from Centennial next week.

    She feels that her college experience has given her a great start to her career in communications.

    "Being a Corporate Communications student has given me practical experience and a foundation of knowledge I can bring to employers and internships," Scicluna says. "It has made me a better employee."

    She was the front-line spokesperson for the Arthritis Society when the painkiller Celebrex was being discussed in the media last December. She also writes press releases, funding initiatives, and even designs posters. Her next big project is the Joints in Motion marathon.

    "Joints in Motion is a fundraising marathon training program," Scicluna explains. "Participants train to walk, run or hike for arthritis research and education."

    She will travel to Hawaii in December to complete a 10-km walk on behalf of the four million Canadians living with arthritis.

    Scicluna hopes to raise $5,200 herself through different events and corporate sponsorship. But, more than raising money, she wants to educate others about the disease and let people living with arthritis know that there is hope for a cure.

    Joy Mitchell is also graduating from Centennial's Corporate Communications program this month.

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