Oranges for the Arthritis Blues
This is a guest blog posting by my wife Cathalynn Labonté-Smith on her experience with Arthritis. You can sponsor me in my run here.
I sat on a denim loveseat drinking blueberry punch while flat bluebirds and delicate azure flowers peered down at me from the ceiling. No, it wasn’t an Alice in Wonderland-type daydream; I was at the Mary Pack Arthritis Centre Volunteer Tea in celebration of their 75th Anniversary. As a patient, sporadic contributing writer and volunteer, my interest perked up when I heard there were 10 free entries to the ScotiaBank Half-Marathon and 5K Run for anyone willing to raise funds for the Arthritis Society.
Steve was looking for a race goal he could manage around all those business trips. He loves meeting all of you readers and has a severe case of travelophilia. However; it does make it hard for him to fit in triathlon training into his busy schedule, but a half marathon when he was just coming off the annual Vancouver Sun 10K Run sounded perfecto.
I did that race in my pre-arthritis days. I envisioned a brisk downhill pace from the top of the University of British Columbia campus to the Lumberman’s Arch in Stanley Park. I didn’t expect a heat wave so I left behind my hat as did many other runners who succumbed to heat stroke that day. Being fair-haired and freckle-faced I don’t take to heat well and knew I was far off even my usual snail’s pace when the walkers started passing me. Finally, the ambulance crew on bikes pulled up to me and asked if they could have their picture taken with me at the finish.
“I know what this means,” I said between laboured breaths, “I’m dead last, aren’t I.” They didn’t get a chance to answer because a petite runner ahead of me passed out. I felt terrible for her but was glad that the cheerful paramedic pair cycled off to someone in much more need of their services–I was still upright, after all.
I was about a mile from the finish when Steve came into focus, “Where have you been?” he asked. I can’t remember my answer it was probably a half-sobbed, “Here.” He gave me a pep talk and got me to keep up with him that last painful stretch. In the end, I got my medal and fell apart like two year-old when I found out there were no orange slices left because all the food was gone to the finishers before me.
I thought life was tough that day because I was poorly prepared for a long hot run and they were out of oranges—until the Arthritis Fairy in her blue tulle dress and cruel twisted wand came to town. About six years ago I went to sleep a busy teacher and recreational athlete to wake up an arthritis sufferer.
Since then it’s been years of constant pain, crutches, physical therapy, occupational therapy, medical leave, water walking, splints, braces, four trials of biologic drugs, off-label chemotherapy, side effects, countless tests, specialists, total life makeover, adjustments, modifications, plethora of changes little and great, losses and gains, like two new walking partners (Chihuahuas Patches and Vicky) and the people who were the keepers, like Steve.
I won’t be running any foot races with inflammatory arthritis affecting over 20 joints mostly in my feet and hands on any given day, but I will be participating in a 1K Walk to fight Arthritis next month with my casual pokey posse—Steve, our kids with paws, niece, Katrina and her entourage, neighbours, friends, their kids and/or their kids with paws. To me this is as big a milestone as any previous athletic accomplishment pre-arthritis.
If you have arthritis or know anyone with arthritis, which strikes people between the ages of two—when sufferers are too young to even say the word–and 102, please consider sponsoring Steve in his half-marathon. There is still much research to be done to make the quality of life better for those of us who suffer from one or more of the 100 different types of arthritis. I’ll be dropping him at the start of the race making sure he has a hat and be there at the end of the race with a bag of orange slices waiting with a big smile on my freckled face. Go Steve Go!
NOTE: For those of you who will ask or just silently wonder about my last name. I didn’t tack on Stephen’s last name to Labonté. Indeed, I kept my maiden name—it just happened to be hyphenated and the second name happened to be Smith. I wasn’t specifically looking for a mate with a last name that was either Labonté or Smith to make things easier in the not needing to change one’s driver’s license department but it was a happy coincidence.