Team NYC Sick Chick Club. Photo by S. Nash.
In what is probably my most read article, RA: The Loser Disease, I lamented RA’s D-list status in the world of cause célèbre. Hardly a soul knows what color our awareness ribbon is, much less what the disease is, that it’s different from osteoarthritis, or that it is just one of over a hundred forms of autoimmune arthritis. But last Sunday, all across the country and in New York City in particular, hundreds and thousands took to the streets for the Arthritis Foundation’s annual Arthritis Walk to help spread awareness and raise funds for research, and I was among them!
Decked out in my colorful orange team shirt, I joined my fellow NYC Sick Chick Club team members on what was a rather dreary, drippy morning. I had never done a 5k before, and as I arrived at Battery Park at the lower tip of Manhattan, I thought back to my ‘Loser Disease’ article, written well over two years ago, and how I had remarked that “the idea of having a big walk for RA strikes me as being a little flawed given that many people with RA either can't walk, can't walk without assistance, or can't walk for long periods of time without suffering some real, no-holds-barred pain. I know I can't. I could get through it, but the thought of walking 5K, even for a cause so directly related to my well-being, doesn't exactly inspire me to go and sign up for one if I'm being really honest.”
My how times have changed. When my friend Jodi emailed me several months ago to let me know she was starting a team for the Arthritis Walk in New York under the banner of the NYC Sick Chick Club, a happy hour support group for young women with RA that I began through my blog, I barely hesitated to sign up for it. I figured that chances were pretty good I’d be able to walk 5k without too much of a problem since my drugs have knocked me into medical remission (eek- I said the ‘R’ word!).
I signed up…and before I knew it, the NYC Sick Chick team had grown to over 20 members, and our team goal of raising $2,000 was met and exceeded four times over! I was really excited to meet several women on our team whom I knew only from emailing and the online RA community, including fellow blogger Maya from Loving with Chronic Illness. As I stood at our team’s registration table with Jodi and her husband, Chris, everyone who walked by admired our fabulous t-shirts, designed by NYC Sick Chicker Alison…and as the Arthritis Foundation’s New York Chapter kicked off the walk with a few speeches and announcements, we found out that we won the team t-shirt contest!
Looking around, there was such an array of people gathered– some were young, some were mature, some had canes and wheelchairs in tow in case they were needed, while others betrayed no outside signs at all that their joints harbored damage or pain. During the group warm-up, though, it was clear that many people had limitations and that movement didn’t come without effort, especially on such a damp and chill morning. I felt a little guilty as I looked around. My symptoms are so minor now; other than some achiness in my hips, I had little to complain about.