Battling rheumatoid arthritis – American Ninja Warrior style. #WeAreAllAbel
The TV series American Ninja Warrior (ANW) is a show where contestants compete to win the grand prize by finishing an obstacle course requiring strong, agile and determined athleticism. Contestants must have faith that they can conquer any obstacle put in front of them - the same type of faith some have when battling rheumatoid arthritis. In ANW contestant Abel Gonzalez's case, this was true in the literal sense.
Abel grew up in Chicago with a rough childhood. His parents married young and had little financial means. In an interview with EverydayHealth, he said: "My dad was abusive. He sold tires at a flea market to try to help us get by. When I was 10, my mom and dad's fighting escalated." His parents eventually split up and Abel and his brothers were forced to split up. Abel and his brother were sent to live with family members in Texas, while his two younger brothers stayed behind to live with his mother in Chicago.
"I can remember my younger brothers sitting on the steps as Matthew and I drove away for good. It devastated me to be apart from my younger brothers. I was only 10. I thought that maybe I had caused my parents to get divorced," Abel added.
The award-winning chef Seamus Mullen, athlete Aimée Espinoza of San Clemente, California, triathlete Dina Neils and Pain Talks Founder Alan Brewington are all successful people, who just happen to live with arthritis. Remember that you have arthritis, but it doesn't have you.
In an interview with Everyday Health, Seamus Mullen, author of Hero Food and the chef and owner behind New York City's Tertulia restaurant, said: "I think the first mistake I made was believing that life as I knew it was over. I really felt as though the rug was pulled from beneath me, and that I would never again be able to do the things I once loved doing." Mullen was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2007. He adds, "I really wish that, early on, I'd gotten to know more people who were living and functioning with RA, and that I'd learned more about what I could do as an individual to treat the disease, rather than depending so heavily on the medical community for answers." Continue reading
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The litany of famous athletes who suffer from various types of arthritis is long: golfers, cyclists, figure skaters, baseball stars, downhill skiers … you get the idea. There are countless athletes performing and competing at world-class levels in every imaginable sport. They do it all despite their arthritis and many have become high-profile and public supporters for their form of arthritis.
These athletes have found a way to compete at the highest echelon of their sport even as they suffer from the effects of arthritis. They do it with the aid of sports psychologists (keep attitudes positive), physiotherapists (keep joints limber), coaches (keep on the game), trainers (keep in top physical shape), medical personnel (keep tweaking meds), and maybe a financial advisor and a business agent too. On the other hand, we mere mortals must play all those roles (and more) by ourselves and all at the same time. The team behind us is far less comprehensive: probably a medical doc (rheumatologist) and then a bunch of friends and family cheering us on from the sidelines.
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In recent years, arthritis research and advocacy organizations have made important inroads in creating public awareness about the many types of arthritis (and related inflammatory diseases). However, I think that there’s nothing like an athlete’s star power to help focus attention on arthritis, which until recently was not understood or even considered a “serious” disease by many health professionals.
Athletes are terrific ambassadors for spreading the word about arthritis; their personal stories provide comfort and inspiration about how they cope with their condition during their sports careers. They possess the ideal public platform to get out the message about arthritis’ deleterious impact on millions of lives. In bringing awareness to the seriousness of the disease, they also help to direct more dollars towards research and ultimately, a cure.
Personally, we all deserve to consider ourselves as winners. Every day, we haul our pain around with us, we cope with hurting joints and aches, and the secondary effects created by various medications, including fatigue and depression. Unlike high-performing athletes, we do this without the benefit of a team of medical and/or health professionals. We participate as best we can in the “game” of life; we find our personal motivation and encouragement to keep moving. We may not run marathons, bolt down ski slopes at breakneck speeds, or drive a golf ball 300 yards, but we are all arthritis athletes in our own right. ~Fran