THUNDER BAY - There is a common misconception that arthritis only affects people as they get older but for those diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at an early age it can mean a lifetime of pain and reduced mobility.
Doneta Rasmussen knows this pain all too well having watched her daughter live with the condition since the age of five.
“In my daughter’s case, it affected her through her elementary and high school,” she said. “There was a lot of pain. As a mother, seeing a child in pain is really difficult but I credit the Arthritis Society with giving us the tools to make sure she had a viable life.”
As a way of giving back, Rasmussen has been volunteering with the Arthritis Society for the past 25 years, and on Sunday, she participated in the 10th Annual Walk for Arthritis for the 10th time.
“It helped get us through some very trying times with her illness and this is my way of giving back to fabulous people who suffer every day with all forms of arthritis,” she said.
This year more than 150 people participated in the walk with a goal of raising $25,000. Last year more than $20,000 was raised and just before the walk kicked off on Sunday, the total was at $24,260.
“I think we have a good turnout this year,” said Kassandra Arsenault, marketing committee member with the Arthritis Society in Thunder Bay. “We’ve bumped up our numbers in terms of participation.”
Walks were taking place in 30 communities across Canada and in the last 10 years it has raised $10 million.
More than six million Canadians are living with arthritis and many people suffer in silence.
“It brings the community together,” Arsenault said. “I think a lot of people struggle in silence with arthritis and this is a place for them to bring that struggle together and support one another.”
“It is a bit of an invisible disease,” Rasmussen added. “You can’t necessarily see it in someone who has arthritis. So that awareness is key and that’s what these kinds of events bring out.”
There have been some significant developments in treatment for arthritis such as medication and physiotherapy that allows people to live fulfilling lives.
Rasmussen said her daughter, who is now 30, has not let arthritis hold her back and she has the Arthritis Society and the continual support from the community to thank.
“She has done so well,” Rasmussen said. “She has travelled all around the world. She is not letting it get her down. She may have arthritis but it certainly doesn’t have her.”