Rheumatoid arthritis doesn't faze boutique owner

Nicole Dennis Durnin ran home from kindergarten one day, embarrassed that she couldn't cut with the scissors like the other kids. In Grade 1, her teacher criticized her writing because it wasn't neat. Durnin didn't realize it, but at age five she had rheumatoid arthritis.

Nine aspirins a day throughout elementary school helped Durnin deal with the pain-somewhat. Her symptoms temporarily faded, but in her 20s, her arthritis flared up and so did her resolve to fight back.

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"This is not an old person's disease," says the 36-year old entrepreneur. "Arthritis can hit anyone at any age. People typically begin to be affected between the ages of 40 to 50 but onset can happen at any age. I was diagnosed at six."

But unlike many who see the disease as a hindrance or try to hide their condition, Durnin is vocal about her arthritis and is determined to educate people about the disease. "More than four million Canadians live with this debilitating disease," she explains.

"There is a stigma associated with arthritis and I am hoping to shift that, even just a little bit."

One of the things that kept Durnin going and helped with her arthritis was her love for fashion. Today, she is living her childhood dream and is the proud owner of LYNNsteven-a trendy women's clothing boutique in Gastown.

Arthritis is an autoimmune disease with no known cause. It affects about one in 1,000 Canadians under the age of 16. Juvenile arthritis is a leading chronic disease among kids in the country. Durnin will participate in the Walk to Fight Arthritis June 10 at the Athletes Village.

How do you deal with the pain?

I have been on medication most of my life to help me cope with the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Last summer, I stopped taking all my drugs as I needed to clear out my system before my husband and I could work on starting a family. I have good days and bad days and have learned to rest when I need to and have also revamped my diet as I believe that food plays a huge role in how our body functions. I also incorporate weekly acupuncture sessions into my wellness routine.

Biggest hurdle?

Learning to manage the disease without any medications. This year has been tough with swollen knees and having to use a cane when I am at the shop. I think I have figured out what works for me after a lot of trial and error and a lot of tears.

What was the lowest point?

It's every time I am unable to walk. My knees can get so swollen that it is difficult to put any weight on them. I like to be active and I find sitting on the couch with two swollen knees incredibly frustrating.

Why do you educate people about arthritis?

I think as I have gotten older and wanting to start a family it has become more important to me. Sometimes this disease is not always easy to see. Many people think that someone with arthritis will have deformities and that is simply not the case.

Why did you pursue fashion? My mom said that I was picking out my outfits from a very young age. I guess you can say fashion is just in me. My first job was at Club Monaco back when I was 16. I was immediately hooked. I loved helping customer's put together outfits.

Who is Lynn Steven?

Lynn is my mom's first name and Steven is my younger brother.

Tell me about the shop.

We work on at bringing in lines that are not everywhere in Vancouver. We also love to support Canadian talent and carry a number of lines from across Canada. We have amazing clients at LYNNsteven, everyone from teenagers to stylish women in their late '70s seem to enjoy shopping at our little boutique.

Why are you raising awareness of arthritis through your store?

Now that I own a business I wanted to be sure that I give back to the Arthritis Society and maybe use my story to create awareness about the disease. Last year we hosted a fundraising event at the shop and we look forward to doing it again at the beginning of June. People can stay tuned to our website for more information. lynnsteven.com.

Who inspires you?

Most people I meet inspire me in someway. Everyone has a story and I love to chat with people.


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