Kelly Kirby has woken up in pain for so many days, she doesn’t remember what it’s like not to.
Kirby has rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune-based form of the disease.
“My immune system attacks my joints causing irreversible damage,” she explains simply.
With that in mind, she’s not the kind of person you’d expect to take part in marathons, but that’s exactly what this Pictou County mother is doing next week, as she and other Canadians head to Rome. The run is through Joints in Motion, a group that seeks to reward people for raising money for arthritis research and setting goals.
“I have raised $6,300 for the Arthritis Society this past year which will be used for research and funding education programs for those with arthritis,” she said. “In turn, they have presenting sponsors who fund the trip –
Aleve is the major sponsor for us.”
Kirby is running in honour of her grandmother who battled rheumatoid arthritis, and also for a former employee from her company who died from complications of the disease. But she’s running for herself too.
Kirby started noticing pain and swelling in her joints when she woke up around the same time she had her second child in 2007 and was diagnosed through tests when she was just 32.
“Growing up with my grandmother I had a pretty good idea of what I was probably facing,” she said.
Right now the damage is in her feet and she takes medication to help alleviate the symptoms, but she’s also found that physical fitness and a healthy diet go a long way to help the problem too.
About two years she was inspired by some coworkers at Johnson Insurance to start running short distances and completed a couple of 5K races, then last year she increased to 10Ks.
“Running is not something that is easy for me to do, but with each run I get a feeling of accomplishment,” she said. “I love setting and reaching goals.”
Recognizing her interest in running, Kirby’s brother suggested she take part in the Joints in Motion project. At first she was reluctant, but the more she read about it the more it appealed to her as a way she could help raise money for arthritis research and at the same time set the bar high and attain a personal goal of running a marathon.
Most important, though, she hopes she can set a good example for others and her own daughters in particular by persevering.
“I want to instil in them the same thing that my parents did in me,” she said. “You can be whoever you want to be and if you think it, you can do it.”
She leaves March 13 and meets up with other participants in Toronto where they will travel as a team to Rome.”
The marathon itself is on St. Patrick's Day, March 17.
“It should be an interesting time to be in Rome, with the Conclave and election of a new Pope possibly affecting the start time or route of the marathon itself,” she said.
About Joints in Motion:
The Arthritis Society’s Joints in Motion program brings together teams of Canadians to compete in once-in-a lifetime experiences including marathons, half-marathons, walks, treks and cycling events in exciting destinations around the world while raising much-needed dollars to fund leading-edge research and programs that support people living with arthritis.
Since 1999, more than 5,500 people – from beginners to serious athletes – have participated in the program, raising over $33 million to fund arthritis research to benefit the 4.6 million Canadians with arthritis.
• 4.6 million, or one in six, Canadians aged 15 years and older report having arthritis.
• Arthritis can strike anyone at anytime, regardless of age, physical condition or ethnic background.
• Nearly three of every five people with arthritis are of working age (under 65).
• A recent report estimates that arthritis may cost the Canadian economy more than $33 billion annually.