Lake Norman & Mooresville

Teen pushes past the pain of arthritis

Hannah Beck is no ordinary high school freshman.

Last year, as an eighth-grader, she was the starting goalie on Davidson Day's soccer team. She's an accomplished cellist who also plays violin, clarinet, viola and piano.

Her artwork was recently selected for a national calendar.

Extraordinary might be a better adjective for her. Hannah struggles with juvenile arthritis, a chronic disease that causes such painful swelling in her joints that some days she needs to take an elevator to get to her classes.

Fourteen-year-old Hannah was diagnosed a few years ago, when a dance injury caused her knee to swell - and swell and swell.

Over the next month, she saw eight doctors before being diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.

"I had always felt perfectly fine beforehand and never had any problems, and just felt so surprised that someone my age could have this disease," she recalls.

Hannah is the daughter of Tammy and Robert Beck, and lives on Queensdale Road, Cornelius.

Despite multiple surgeries - averaging one a year - Hannah still lives with constant pain.

"Some days are worse than others," she said. "It's worst in my jaw because it's bone-on-bone grinding. Any time I open my mouth - to talk, eat, anything - I can feel it crackle. But I try and push past the pain."

Push past it she does. Passionate about her music, she spends about an hour a day practicing.

"It's my way of relaxing and escaping from the world. It can be difficult, because it has progressed to my joints, but it's what I love."

Davidson Day's public relations director John Tobias cites Hannah as the best strings musician at the school.

Art is another love. "It's a great way for me to express myself differently," Hannah said.

Her work was recently chosen for the National Arthritis Foundation's Let's Move Together 2011 calendar.

Sports keep her active and moving.

"I really try and show kids that even though I have arthritis, I'm just as athletic as they are," she said.

Her coach and teacher, Chad Metzler, agrees.

"As a student, an athlete and a person, Hannah is relentless. She thrives off a challenge and is looking to push herself at all times, whether it be academically, athletically, physically or socially," he said.

Metzler shares this story about her drive. "This past year, she agreed to play goal keeper as a back-up for the team. I told her that she could take the season to learn; she had not played much soccer before, and she was only an eighth-grader.

"We had a senior goal keeper anyhow, so it seemed like a good situation. The fourth game into the season, our senior goal keeper suffered a broken hand, and from that point on Hannah was the player the team counted on.

" She did extra work to learn the position and she pushed her body to the limit. I was so proud of her. She led the team to a 10-6 season and a second-round state playoff appearance."

Sound exhausting? It can be, but Hannah is motivated by helping to inspire others. She does a lot of work with the Arthritis Foundation and enjoys working with kids who have similar diagnoses.

"It's worth it when I can help someone going through the same things I have," she said.