When I first got sick, I couldn’t fathom taking part in walks for rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. At the time, it felt like a gavel coming down, like taking part in such a public and overt display made it all real, meant that I really was sick, and that I was a twenty something living with these illnesses.
In some ways, it worked out that my diagnoses came right around the time when the walks were taking place, so in 2008, there was absolutely no way I was going to do them. But since then, I have made these walks an annual thing, a symbolic representation that I am living with these illnesses.
In 2009, I did the arthritis walk with one of my very good friends, and the lupus walk with my aunt. I was still feeling unsure about the whole thing, but ultimately, I have come to see these walks as a necessary part of my life. If I am physically healthy enough to do them, I will.
This year, my aunt and I did the arthritis walk a few weekends ago at the Detroit Zoo, and my aunt, sister, and I will do the lupus walk, also at the Detroit Zoo. We have dubbed ourselves “Leslie’s Ladies” or “Team Leslie”. I don’t have a huge team of people, but I walk with those who are close to me. I do hope in the future that our team expands.
I have to admit, though, that these walks leave something to be desired. They lack the pomp and circumstance of the Komen Breast Cancer walks, and they seem somewhat cliquish. You have your big teams, who are huge fundraisers, and then you have everyone else. I’ve never made friends at these walks. There is usually a not-so-clearly defined beginning and endpoint for the walk. Everyone starts together and then people end at various times and the walk is over. Maybe in bigger, more metropolitan areas things work differently, but in the past three years that I’ve taken part, things have seemed to get even more discombobulated.
This year, a few of the Michigan arthritis walks were combined for one larger one at the Detroit Zoo. There were slated to be around 2,000 people there. This past weekend, my aunt and sister did the breast cancer walk in Detroit, and there was somewhere upwards of 40,000 people that attended the walk.
While I am thrilled that so many people come out to support that event, it seems to me that the walks I participate in cannot hold a candle to them. And I think that’s very sad. Everything is so political these days, but wouldn’t it be nice if breast cancer could just step aside for a minute, and give other illnesses their moment in the sun?
I also have a hard time with these walks for more practical, illness related reasons. This year, it rained before, during, and after the arthritis walk. I was in pain going into it, and wasn’t feeling that great from the rain. And I’ve always found it a bit redundant that the lupus walks are held outside, not under the cover of shade, considering how many of us with lupus have photosensitivity.
I wonder if there maybe isn’t some better way to raise awareness for these illnesses. But I don’t want to sound like the Grinch of walking for a cause. Because I think the intent is there, it’s just that the execution is off.
(I tried to find some statistics about the arthritis and lupus walks that have taken place in Southeastern Michigan, but I wasn’t able to find any.)
I can’t say that I’ll ever be able to run or even walk a marathon now that I am chronically ill. But I attend the lupus and arthritis walks to show my support, and my desire that better treatments and a cure are found for these illnesses. I guess I just wish that the message could spread further, not just to people with these illnesses and their immediate family members, but to others, as well; so that like the legions of people who walk for breast cancer, there could be equal numbers of people walking for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Published On: May 26, 2011