After playing golf one day, Contessa Benson sat down but then couldn’t get up. She was soon diagnosed with fibromyalgia – an inflammatory disease that hijacks your central nervous system, causing generalized chronic pain throughout the body – along with psoriatic arthritis. (Inflammatory diseases often come in bunches – doctors call it ‘comorbidity’, patients call it really bad luck.)
At age 40, Contessa’s difficulty moving was not only overwhelming, but physically and emotionally draining because of the pain. At work, even mundane actions like typing and getting up and down from her chair became a chore. At home, she needed help from her husband and her 4-year-old son just to perform the simplest tasks, like pouring milk, cutting her food and even eating.
After trial and errors in medications and visits to the doctor for nine months, she found The Arthritis Society’s Winnipeg office.
“I was welcomed with open arms as a volunteer to organize the library,” she remembers. “I read all the brochures. I followed the self-care programs and services. I discovered arthritis aquatics, and it changed my life, giving me more mobility.”
Soon she was one of the “family”. The Society staff shared their own personal challenges with arthritis – and Contessa realized that while she had previously felt alone, she was anything but. The Arthritis Society gave her hope, and Contessa wanted to give back. So she trained to deliver arthritis education programs and presentations, and each year she participates in the Walk to Fight Arthritis with her family.
“That 5 kilometer walk means a lot to me, even if I’m the last one on the route,” she says proudly. “My life has taken a different direction with arthritis. As a wife and a mother I will never give up. The disease must live with me.”