As a teenager, Christy Dunn wasn’t a fan of mornings. She’d wake up with extreme pain and stiffness in her joints and knees, and it would take her a few hours into the day to finally feel good. For all she knew, that’s how all teenagers felt.
But these weren’t growing pains. At 22, the Charlottetown native learned she had ankylosing spondylitis, a type of inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune disease that for years can be masked as back pain. From this moment on, doctor’s appointments, medication and a blanket of fatigue became routine.
“I was overwhelmed at first,” says Christy, who is 29 and a mother of two infants. “I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis but I was very ignorant of the disease itself. I found myself constantly justifying why I couldn’t participate in things because I didn’t look “sick”, and I was always so tired. It is very difficult to explain a disease to someone if you are still learning about it yourself.”
Christy sought self-management tips and tools from The Arthritis Society, as she did not want to give up her future to the disease. She wanted to take control.
She spread her story prior to the 2014 Walk to Fight Arthritis, as “Walk hero” for Charlottetown. Christy continues to live day by day – some good, some not so much. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can cause havoc with her body, so pacing herself is important. Even kneeling to give Hunter a bath or scooping him from the crib become monumental efforts. What she goes through is exacerbated by the fact that few people she runs into have ever heard of ankylosing spondylitis.
Christy is set to return for the 2015 Walk to Fight Arthritis on June 7th. “Arthritis is different for everyone,” she says. “My experience as a mother in my twenties living with ankylosing spondylitis is much different than someone in their sixties. That’s why the Walk is so important – it allows us to connect with people of all ages living with arthritis in a positive and empowering way, and the funds raised will hopefully lead to great advances in research of the disease.”
To join Christy and take part in this year’s walk, register at www.walktofightarthritis.ca.