Facing Forward is a series that shares the lives of people living with arthritis and other invisible illnesses. The goal of the series is to see how we are similar and how we are different – and to remind us to keep moving forward because we aren’t alone!
This special edition of Facing Forward shares the stories of the individuals involved in the Arthritis Foundation’s 15th Annual California Coast Classic – a 525 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Name: Dee (Team San Diego)
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Diagnoses: Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) & Lupus
Age at Diagnoses: AS at 42; Lupus at 53
Why is it important to you to participate in the California Coast Classic?
To show people that even with arthritis you can still do what you enjoy – and to help spread the word.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
Not always being able to do the things I want to do when I want to do them. Having to ask for help opening jars at times. Not being able to wear my wedding ring due to joint swelling.
How has your diagnoses made it more difficult for you to stay active?
When you wake up as tired as you went to bed, it is hard to get motivated. And when your joints are swollen it is very difficult to walk, let alone try and ride a bike or work on exercise machines. Floor exercises are very hard when you have trouble getting off the floor.
What are some of your favorite tips and tricks for staying active with arthritis?
Even on very painful days I make myself get up and walk, telling myself that moving will make me feel better. Reminding myself it is only temporary and I will feel better.
How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
Knowing that I have a very good support team – my friends, the Arthritis Foundation, my family, and most of all the love and support of my husband, who has stood beside me through the good and the very bad.
If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
You were given these 2 diseases for a reason. At times you will feel like giving up, but you are strong and will get through whatever is thrown at you. You will make a difference in the lives of the people you talk to. While this is not the best thing you could have been given, it is a blessing to be able to bring understanding to others. Keep your head up and your heart open.