That quote from my friend Rhonda's daughter, pretty much sums it up. A day without Rheumatoid Arthritis...what a great day that will be. Let me give you some background and you'll understand why.
I first met Rhonda about seven or eight years ago when we worked together. She was a great co-worker - excellent at her job, fun to have in the office, a hard worker and a busy mom to boot. The only possible negative comment I have is that I'm still working off the waistline I gained from all the snacks she brought in to work. Eventually we all ended up going our separate ways however I did manage to stay in touch with Rhonda.
Fast-forward a few years...I'm now full time in IT and working in high performance sport. Rhonda has moved to a smaller community in the mid-island area, and by all accounts she's "living the dream". She has a good job she enjoys, lives in a wonderful community, close to her family, has some great friends, and her daughter is running her ragged and making her very proud in the process. In our occasional talks Rhonda mentioned she'd had some health problems but didn't go into detail, and I assumed things had worked themselves out. It was quite different when I caught up with her during the fall and learned the full story. Rhonda had developed Rheumatoid Arthritis and the impact on her life was severe. This insidious disease has left her unable to work, in continual pain and struggling to deal with the effects of this horrid illness. Arthritis has made it a battle just to find the energy to be Mom to a very active 11 year old. Finally, let’s not forget the endless rounds of doctor visits, drug treatments, which in themselves caused awful side effects, and of course our efficient, caring health care system.
Despite all of this Rhonda shines on. When she can find the energy to chat on the phone it’s all about what her daughter is doing, what’s going on around her and what’s happening with me. It’s not about her or her troubles. She’s all about hope and moving forward despite obstacles that many mere mortals (me included) would find overwhelming.
Two years ago, as many of you will remember, I had an epiphany while on a training run and made it my goal to raise money to help Rhonda and others like her by running a marathon. We were blown away by the number of amazing, caring people who contributed to our efforts and in the end helped us raise over $2,700. Even more significant was the effect the fund raising had on Rhonda. Each contribution brightened her day and gave her hope; you could tell by the excitement in her voice as we talked about the donations that had come in that it was really making a difference.
I wish I could be bringing you good news about Rhonda's current condition but unfortunately, despite the efforts of some very talented doctors and researchers, her RA continues to progress...progress to the point where there are no more trials or experimental drugs; she's tried them all. Unfortunately with no success. All she can do now is try to manage as best she can. So where do I come in? Well....
A couple of years ago I learned of a race that I just HAD to do. I entered the lottery for race spots and in February of this year I found out I had a spot and would be competing in the 2012 "Marathon des Sables".; What is the "Marathon des Sables" you ask?; Here's a link, but simply put it is a six day, 250KM race across the desert in Morocco. Racers carry everthing (except tents and water) with them and must be completely self-sufficient for the six days. We won't get into why I'd want to do something like this...a love of challenges is the simple explanation...but I'd be lying if I said I didn't think of Rhonda and the chance to so something to help her and others with RA. I also know that this little jaunt through the desert, as tough as it will likely be, will in no way compare with what Rhonda and others like her face on a daily basis.
So how can you help? It’s simple – sponsor me for the upcoming Marathon des Sables. I’m really not fussy – you can sponsor me for simply running the race, pledge X dollars per blister (which,from what I've read,could get really expensive ), bet me that I won’t finish it at all or pay me to run it in a pink tutu (which will cost you dearly…). All I ask is that you make a contribution! I'd also ask that you pass on word of what I'm doing to friends, colleagues, associates, clients, bosses...in fact, anyone you know. This is a big effort and I really need to get the word out!
Your contribution will go towards research, helping the scientists find a cure for this horrible disease that has so cruelly interrupted the lives of Rhonda and so many others. I know from my experience on the Tour de Rock a couple of years ago that the money spent on research DOES help, and I encourage you to help out in any way you can.
I sit down to write this letter, but in all honesty, Don has said all I wished to say and more. Don has been a great support, even with small little emails that say keep your chin up. It's amazing how the support of friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances can make a difference. The thought of running across a desert is beyond my comprehension, and when I asked Don if he was nuts, he responds, "Yep," with a chuckle. I still think he is crazy, but still he gives me hope. By doing this run and fundraising for Rheumatoid Arthritis, there is a chance we can find the cure.....or at least more treatment options....Thank you for listening (or reading) and for any and all support you give!
Your support is greatly appreciated.
Rhonda and Don
"Imagine a day without RA"