Just over two years ago, at the age of 24, Katelynd Park was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It was a devastating blow. She remembers thinking, how could someone so young and healthy be diagnosed with this debilitating disease? Katelynd has come a long way since her diagnosis. She is preparing to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, her first marathon, as part of the Arthritis Foundation team on October 8. She plans on showing others, and herself, that RA will not keep her from living her life.
Katelynd thinks she started experiencing symptoms of arthritis in college. There were periods of time she had trouble walking or moving. She blamed it on stress – she was a senior, trying to find a job, it was normal for her body to be stressed. During a physical, Katelynd shared with her doctor that her wrists were hurting and she didn’t have a lot of mobility. Her doctor tested Katelynd for arthritis and she anxiously awaited the results. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
At her first appointment with her rheumatologist, Katelynd was overwhelmed and scared. 17 of Katelynd’s joints were inflamed at the time of her diagnosis. Her rheumatologist started her on a treatment plan and she has gone through trial and error to find a medication that works for her. Now, she takes a couple pills each day and gives herself two different medication injections each week.
The time after her diagnosis was very difficult for Katelynd. She internalized her physical and emotional pain. Her friends would often remark about how Katelynd didn’t look or act sick. Because arthritis is often invisible to the naked eye, a substantial portion of the arthritis community experiences this type of misunderstanding from family, friends and peers.
Katelynd is more vocal about her disease now, she wants people to know that some days it’s a struggle to do normal activities like buttoning her pants or tying her shoes. Katelynd started an Instagram account to share her daily life with RA and got involved with the Jingle Bell Run. Social media and the Arthritis Foundation have helped her feel like she isn’t alone.
Katelynd will be the first to tell you she is not a runner. Why did she decide to run a marathon? She wants to prove to herself that she is not limited by arthritis. “I’m not defined by arthritis and I want to run this marathon,” says Katelynd. “Some days I come back from running and just sob, I don’t feel good and it’s really hard. Other days I’m able to go out and run or walk 18 miles and knowing that I’ve done that is a great feeling.”
Katelynd’s boyfriend and best friend will be running beside her in the marathon. Having a support group to train with her has encouraged her to keep going. Still, Katelynd has gone through struggles in training. She has had several flares during training and recently found out she has failed the biologic she’s been taking. She will be able to start a new medication soon, but, for now she pushes on with training.
Katelynd is not only running for herself, she is running to find a cure for arthritis. “I don’t want more people to have to experience what it’s like to feel pain in all of the joints in your body or not be able to open a toothpaste cap or brush your own hair,” says Katelynd. “I want there to be an end to arthritis!”
Visit the Arthritis Foundation team website to support Katelynd and others running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon to find a cure for arthritis.
We wish Katelynd the best of luck in the marathon tomorrow! You are a true Champion of Yes!