Likely resident and prospector Diana Mickle says that living with fibromyalgia has given her first-hand knowledge about the importance of social awareness when it comes to the pain and frustration of arthritis and related conditions.
When she first heard of the Walk to Fight Arthritis she said she decided to join the event in Prince George, and then realized that a better move would be to help organize one in Williams Lake.
Currently working to put the event together for June 8, she is inviting volunteers, sponsors and supporters to step up and get involved.
She explained that her goal is to help raise awareness and support for people living with arthritis, as well as conditions like chronic fatigue and Fibromyalgia, which are described as arthritis-related.
It has been a frustrating experience for her, between the physical condition itself, what she describes as barriers in the medical profession and the loss of both livelihood and disability pension.
“They just recognized Fibromyalgia as a disability in the U.S. which is a huge step. The policy needs to be changed in Canada,” she said.
“The medical association needs to get on board with this, so that people living with it can get help from their doctor.”
Her first symptom was waking up and being paralyzed from the knees down and being unable to walk.
“My doctor kept sending me home with pain medications, saying it was ‘just’ arthritis. Then it spread to my whole legs: it felt like biting, stinging worms crawling up and down my legs. My doctor said I’d just have to live with it, and when Tylenol 3 quit working, sent me home with Oxycotin.”
She said that her condition is incredibly debilitating because it’s difficult to diagnose — symptoms shift and change. Co-founder of Spanish Mountain Gold, she went from being very fit and healthy to nearly incapacitated.
“With all the pain and lack of medical answers came anxiety attacks and very high blood pressure. At one point an emergency room doctor told me to go home and do yoga.”
Her 88-year-old mother has to dress her and get her up in the morning on bad days.
“I have days when I sleep 20 hours a day. Last summer I couldn’t go prospecting at all – I just took my walker to the lake to throw a stick for my dog,” she continued, adding that she recently sold her Jeep to buy food and medications.
Awareness is huge, according to Mickle, who said that it’s very common to be misunderstood by society.
“People think this is all mental, because I look healthy, because I eat and live healthy. I lost many friends because of misconceptions about my condition. People thought I moved away without saying goodbye, when in reality there were days on end when I couldn’t leave the house,” she said.
“With awareness, everything would change. There would be more information, education and understanding. There would be better diagnosis and treatment options.”
She also said that her mother, daughters, her church family, her dog and two cats are the reason she is still alive.
“My mom is an angel. She is Greek — she knows seven languages, walks two miles every day, studies and reads. She taught me about God all my life and would never hurt another person.
“While working in a cigarette factory in Greece, my mom wrote a note with her name and address stating that she’d like to come to Canada, and slipped it into a pack. Someone in Vancouver bought that pack and sent the information to the Vancouver Sun. A family in Powell River paid her way to come to Canada, sponsored her and eventually, her brother and sister,” Mickle continued.
“I come from people of courage and determination, and have looked after other people all my life. There are people out there suffering and alone: that’s why this walk really matters.”
For information about how to participate in the walk on June 8, including donating or helping with organizing the Williams Lake walk, contact Diane at 250-790-2054 or email@example.com. For more information about Walk to Fight Arthritis or the Arthritis Society, visit www.walktofightarthritis.ca.
Facts about arthritis
According to the B.C. Yukon division of the Arthritis Society, there are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis, and anyone at any age can get it, including children.
Arthritis is the third most common chronic condition in British Columbians aged 15 years and older, and is the most chronic condition in Canadian women.
More than 4.6 million Canadians have arthritis, and by 2036 that number is anticipated to rise to 7.6 million, making it one in five Canadians who will be living with the painful disease
Arthritis affects more than 600,000 people in B.C. alone, with more than 100 different types including gout, lupus and scleroderma, and early diagnosis and treatment can significantly affect outcome.