Arthritis walk helps boost care and research efforts

“My body came to a screeching halt.” That’s the way Cheryl Johnson describes what happened to her a decade ago.

Unrelenting pain had engulfed her.

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Previously a very active and healthy person, Johnson steadily over the course of six months had become so ill that she had to use a wheelchair.

“My husband would help me off the bed,” she said. “To brush my teeth and comb my hair even hurt.”

“Everything you take for granted when you wake up in the morning, the simple things, I couldn’t do or was very painful.”

Doctors were, at first, stumped. But then came a diagnosis. She had rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia.

The puzzle then became Johnson’s.

“The only reference I had about arthritis was when I heard older people say their rheumatism was acting up,” she said. “I didn’t know anything. Up until then, it wasn’t part of my world.”

But now it was, and part of her care came from the Arthritis Society, which will hold its 10th annual Walk for Arthritis on June 1 in Vancouver to support disease research and education.

The society enrolled Johnson in an outpatient day program at the Mary Pack Arthritis Centre in Vancouver where she credits a team, consisting of a rheumatologist, nurse, occupational and physiotherapists, and a social worker, for guiding her journey through the disease to a place where she is now in remission.

“That was the turning point,” she said, adding knowledge and education about the disease were vital during her way back to better health.

“With their combined help, I was able to overcome things and adjust to my new normal. That made me feel so grateful that I wanted to help others because that’s who I am,” Johnson said. “I wanted to pay it forward.”

That’s when the Arthritis Society enlisted her help to be part of their team of assistants.

Johnson has also been an ardent supporter of the fundraising walk since the very first one in 2009.

“I think it’s crucial they have the walk. It provides support for something that affects so many people,” she said, adding 6 million people in Canada suffer from some form of arthritis.

“If people come out and support us, it does a lot of good.”

For more information about the annual Walk for Arthritis, visit online at: walkforarthritis.ca

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