I was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 37.  

I spent six months curled up in a ball at home. It was a pretty horrible time in my life but eventually I started to put things into perspective. I was faced with two choices: accept the fact that I would be using a walker in a year and give a new direction to my life or take control.

At first, I perceived arthritis as an old person’s disease but with time, I started taking part in Arthritis Society activities. That opened my eyes to the fact that this disease affects so many people, young and old. Soon after my diagnosis, I had almost no muscle tone left. I had trouble holding a coffee mug or starting my car. It was then that I decided to purchase a stationary bike. At first, I peddled for 75 seconds and the pain made it feel like I had biked 100 km. However, I tried to hold on for a little longer each time. 

Later, I started cycling outdoors, which I kept up for almost 5 years. In 2007, I signed up for a 10 km charity race with a coworker. When I reached the finish line, I knew that running was going to be a new way of life for me. When I was out there, I felt like I was taking a trip inside myself.

I poured myself into marathon training and reached no fewer than 10 finish lines over the years. Each time, it was an incredible feeling of euphoria.  

I want to be a positive leader

That feeling of euphoria and wanting to help people pushed me to create the Pace du Bonheur website (in French) and publish the book Le pace du bonheur: courir et vivre pour soi (The Pace of Happiness: Running and Living for Yourself). Its message? There’s no use in trying to better yourself to impress others. Instead, you should try to push your limits for you and you alone.

The word “regression” is no longer part of my vocabulary. I’ve replaced it with the word “change”. Even if my severe rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t let me perform as well as I used to, it doesn’t mean that I’ve failed. I must simply change the way I set objectives for myself.

My objective now? To flourish. Our happiness should not solely depend on the way we perform because consistency and perseverance are what matters most.

Even if you come in last, you’ve succeeded just by reaching the finish line. That’s how you flourish.

We must remember that running may be an option for everyone but exceeding our personal limits is exactly that, personal. It feels great to run without a timer or pressure from the outside. I am a happy marathon runner and I want to thank all marathon organizers who allow people such as myself to compete in 42 km marathons thanks to early starts. What makes a marathon a marathon is the distance, not the time it takes to run it. In my case, it’s the culmination of weeks of preparation. I pay no heed to the timer, I only care about finishing.

For the last few years, I’ve been an ambassador for the Arthritis Society’s Walk for Arthritis. It’s an opportunity for me to share an important message: we can all surpass our limits, whatever our goals are.  

I’ve found my rhythm and happiness!

You too can find yours.

Nathalie Bisson, Quebec City 
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