What I Did for Love

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

5/24/2012 12:01:00 AM - Jackie Gingrich Cushman

If you are lucky, you have people that you love in your life. If you're really lucky, you have people that inspire you, as well. I love my sister Kathy, but she also is an incredible inspiration to me -- and might be to you, once you hear her story.

This past weekend, we both completed our fifth marathon. We finished the Pasadena, Calif., race along with two other members of the America to Anywhere for Arthritis team. Even the fifth time, 26.2 miles is a very long way to go. I'd like to say that I trained long and hard and the marathon was a breeze -- but that would be a lie.

I barely trained. The last time I went 26.2 miles was the fourth marathon I completed over a year ago. The farthest I went during this training cycle was 18 miles -- not long enough, by the way.

Last week, I came close to canceling my trip. I had not trained properly; there were quite a few school activities for the children that I would miss. But I couldn't. How could I call and tell my sister that I would not be going with her to the marathon?

Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis over 20 years ago, it is much harder for Kathy to finish a marathon than it is for me. Less than a decade ago, the disease had left her with days when she could not get out of bed without help. Getting dressed was often a challenge, and she could not raise her arms high enough to close the back hatch of my car.

Thanks to research, new drugs and new therapies, Kathy has now completed five marathons.

A miracle.

Thank God for donors who donate, researchers who research and doctors who learn new therapies to treat their patients. The Arthritis Foundation is the largest funder of research for arthritis and is the reason we run (walk) marathons. The America to Anywhere to Arthritis team raises money for the Arthritis Foundation and raises awareness about this debilitating disease.

Facts that you might not know according to the Arthritis Foundation's website: "Arthritis is a serious, painful and debilitating disease. Arthritis is the nation's leading cause of disability. One in every five American adults has doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Kids get arthritis, too."

In addition to the Rose Bowl, Pasadena is the home of California Institute of Technology. In a bit of serendipity, we had the opportunity to listen to Dr. David Baltimore, Nobel laureate, lecture on recent research in the area of preventing HIV. Having proved that they can successfully deliver the antibodies to mice, the next step is clinical trials. Kathy was particularly interested in this research. HIV attacks the immune system; rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. While the correlation might not be exact, medical research in one area often leads to breakthroughs in others.

Imagine a world without arthritis. That's Kathy's goal.

For Kathy, arthritis is unacceptable. No one should ignore the serious pain, disability and cost of this chronic illness. She is raising money to prevent, control and cure arthritis.

What I did I do for love? I ran (well, partially walked) a marathon in blazing hot sun, over streets with no shade but plenty of asphalt, in weather that felt like 98 degrees, enduring three out-and-backs (when you could see the running in front of you as you ran out the route, only to have to turn back and return), and travelled up hills and more hills. Finish, I did.

As we sat next to each other at the end of the marathon, Kathy mentioned that she had something in her shoe that was bugging her foot. She took off her shoe and found a hair band. She has walked the marathon with a hair band in her shoe, which of course led to a foot full of blisters.

All I could think of was WOW -- she certainly has an incredibly high pain tolerance. That's what living with arthritis has done for Kathy. She simply ignores the pain and continues to walk on.

Someone you love either has or will suffer from arthritis. What will you do for them?

Help spread the word about the impact of arthritis, and join with us to get to a cure. It can be done.