Eliz­a­beth Werten­berger: From Chronic Pain to Miss Michigan

By Vineworker

I don't know if this young woman is a woman of reli­gious faith, but I was very inspired when I hap­pened to read her story yes­ter­day (2012). Here are the basics.

Eliz­a­beth Werten­berger loves to dance, in fact it seems that may have been what helped to over­come a child­hood dis­ease that doc­tors said should have left her unable to walk.

Since she was an infant Eliz­a­beth was plagued by chronic pain. At 3 she used to crawl into her par­ents bed in tears because her tiny legs hurt so much.

The doc­tors told her par­ents that it was just grow­ing pains. This was their con­stant answer. "They made me feel like it was just some­thing I had to learn to live with, so I did," Eliz­a­beth says.

In grade school the pain was so bad that she had to get up an hour early in order to take a hot bath just so she could get dressed.

The doc­tors told her she should cut back on her hours at the bal­let stu­dio, but Eliz­a­beth refused. Dance was her first love. The only rea­son she entered her first beauty con­test at age 9 was because it gave her a chance to dance onstage.

Besides, she found that danc­ing eased the symp­toms, in spite of what the doc­tors told her.

At age 13 the pain was so bad that her mom began to seek more expert diag­no­sis. The tests showed that her joints were so swollen that she was lucky to be walk­ing. The diag­no­sis was Juve­nile Arthri­tis. "My doc­tor said it's a good thing I didn't give up walk­ing, because (mov­ing) is what saved my joints.

After some dif­fi­cult treat­ments (some of which still have neg­a­tive effects on her health) the dis­ease went into remis­sion when she was 14. She was over­joyed to find her­self with much more energy, and found that she had a new love for life.

Her expe­ri­ence also made her try to do more for oth­ers who suf­fer from chronic pain.

She loved vis­it­ing the local nurs­ing home and talk­ing with the elderly. She under­stood the frus­tra­tion they felt from con­stant stiff­ness and pain, yet she found that they had so much love and good­ness to offer.

"I absolutely fell in love with the senior pop­u­la­tion. There's so much to learnfrom them."

Eliz­a­beth began teach­ing a weekly dance class to women in the nurs­ing home. She also got other stu­dents involved in her out­reach to the elderly.

Eliz­a­beth has used her work as a beauty queen con­tes­tant to pro­mote vol­un­teer­ing and to give hope for chil­dren with chronic dis­eases. She will com­pete in the Miss Amer­ica 2012 com­pe­ti­tion with this as her platform.

"Hav­ing (Juve­nile Arthri­tis) made me appre­ci­ate all the lit­tle things in life," says Eliz­a­beth. "I want kids in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions to know that hav­ing a dis­ease is what makes us unique, and it is truly a gift. You have to have faith in the sil­ver lin­ing."

"At the time of my diag­no­sis, it felt like the worst pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion. But look­ing back, it's the best thing that ever hap­pened to me. With­out my chronic ill­ness, I wouldn't have found my pas­sion for life."

(Source: Arthri­tis Today, January/​February 2012)


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Eliz­a­beth Werten­berger, Miss Michigan