My name is Kelly Warner. I am deaf and 43 years old , married to a wonderful husband of 14 years, who is also deaf. Just months before my marriage, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The full extent of my disease wasn’t apparent until months afterwards. I endured fibromyalgia on top of it. We suspect “arthritis” ran in the family as my grandfather had Ankylosing Spondylitis. I started taking Enbrel in 1999. It was a miracle drug. It helped with the arthritis, but not the fatigue.
I had gained considerable weight to the point of morbid obesity. My arthritis “disappeared” and discontinued Enbrel in 2004. Four years later, I had the gastric bypass. I was back to my normal and athletic skinny self as of when I was 19 years old. However, in 2010, my butt started hurting so terribly and got to the point of being hospitalized for four days. My arthritis came back. I suspect it was Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis. I started using Enbrel again. There were times I had felt being twenty years old and other times, ninety years old.
In 2013, I noticed that Spondylitis Association of America, a wonderful site of support who helped me get through my reoccurrence of the disease and the ups and downs of my journey, was trying to create awareness of Ankylosing Spondylitis by doing “Walking My AS Off,” counting steps done between March 1st to May 4th. They wanted to see if we can collect enough steps to reach the moon. They also had the million step challenge. The million step challenge is a total of 500 miles. I thought to myself… I would like to try it.
This challenge was definitely a CHALLENGE!
It was hard as I would fall behind on trying to stay on top of it. I experienced so many ups and downs.
At first, it was exciting to explore new trails while walking and biking. I experienced seeing beautiful flowers, animals, sunrises, sunsets, and many aspects of Mother Nature.
There were some obstacles such as biking in the rain, in a hailstorm, and in the wind. The worst part of walking was on the beach, stretching for four miles. It was blowing 30 to 45 miles an hour. It didn’t help matters when parts of the beach was covered with seaweed and huge rocks. My ankles were swollen after the ordeal. I thought it would be a piece of cake because it was low tide. Boy, was I wrong!
I had experienced a bike accident early in the 64 day ordeal. I didn’t want that to stop me and I kept plugging away. However, I suspect with that and other stressful incidents, I experienced burnout. I didn’t know at first what it was. I got hit with severe depression, then severe fatigue, then some weird anxiety which made me isolated for a week. If it wasn’t for my participation for “Walking My AS Off,” I would have become more isolated. Once I figured it was burnout, I became better and more careful to exercise AND rest. It was hard catching up after the three weeks of ‘the blahs.’
It became more fun, once I got a handle of playing and resting. The most ever fun was biking a total of 28.8 miles and walking 2 miles that one day. That was the third most ever done in one day (61, 991 steps). I decided for the heck of it to bike from Lagoon Point to Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island in Washington State. I saw deer, bunny rabbits, cute small birds, the beach, the surf, the gentle wind, the sun, and even a white horse. On the way back after going to the beach on my bike, I was like, “Oh my god, did I really come up that hill?!” I was laughing my head off, feeling so good. I really enjoyed feeling the wind in my hair, looking out the beautiful prairies on the island.
The last few days of trying to meet the million step challenge got harder. I experienced a flat tire on my bike. My back started spasming. Thankfully, I was able to use all my means to restore my body to make this last hurrah. I used Epsom salts, EMPI (an electronic device to stimulate sore muscles), and REST. The last day (May 4th) was the second most ever done – a total of 64,649, while the most ever done was 65, 871 on Earth Day – April 22nd.
Today, May 5th, I am totally exhausted, but am eternally grateful for this challenge. Last Friday, the 3rd, I became emotional that I had come all this way and to see the finish line in sight. I became more emotional the next day when I noticed people from the Walking Your AS Off Facebook page and the Million Step Challenge Facebook page were trying cheering me on.
I made many new friends through the WYAO. I sure hope that my pictures and posts of my journey on Facebook raising awareness for Ankylosing Spondylitis had made a difference among my friends and family. I believe that one friend had realize that her health issues were related to AS! If it wasn’t for the WYAO, she would be struggling with this mysterious, and yet so common disease.
I want to express thanks to the people on WYAO, my new friends, my old friends, family, and most of all, my husband who supported me on this seemingly insane, but wonderful journey.