It was 16 years ago Lois Mackenzie found out she had arthritis.
She was working as a welder, dealing with grinders and welding rods and using heavy equipment. It had never been a problem to her before.
She was only in her '20s. "When I was welding, it just seemed to amplify things," she says.
So she quit. It became too much strain on her body to even work, and to this day she's still suffering from arthritis, mostly in the tendons in her hands, but also in various joints and, almost worst of all, with the fatigue she now feels.
"I find working three days in a row is too much for me," she says.
Fifteen per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 suffer with some form of arthritis, according to the Arthritis Society.
Other statistics include: There are currently 600,000 people in B.C. living with arthritis.
There are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis, including lupus, gout and scleroderma.
Arthritis can affect anyone at any age.
One in four people between 25 and 44 are not in the labour force because of their disease.
It affects more women than men. It can affect one's ability to work, their quality of life and the potential to advance in their career.
That last point Mackenzie knows all too well, having been forced to leave her career path at an early age to find something that fit her lifestyle. She tried working at Sears, but even that proved too much for her.
But then, almost two years ago, she made the big score. She found a job at KMS Tools, working in sales, which doesn't require a lot of physical exertion. The company works around her schedule, despite the opening being for a full-time position.
"So now I'm three days a week," she said. Over the course of 16 years Mackenzie has developed a very understanding relationship with her body. She knows her limits and when she can push them, and when to back off.
Even so, she can't stop the random flare of pain from acting up.
"Going to dinner with me is interesting," she said. "I'm always dropping my cutlery."
She describes her arthritis as a "throbbing" pain, mostly affecting the tendons in her hands and her joints.
And there are times when that's really kept her from doing the things she loves.
"I used to Boxfit. I really liked hitting the bag, the heavy bag, but I can't do that now because it hurts," she said.
When she was 23 she loved riding a motorcycle. Those nostalgic memories recently pushed her to take a riding course, but it was also too much.
"I've come to the conclusion it's too hard to hold on, to turn the throttle and hold the clutch," she said. "I could probably do it for 10 minutes, but I couldn't do it for a long ride."
The disappointment still weighs her down, but she's not letting it keep her there.
Living with arthritis this long, Mackenzie knows the moment she lets her body rest, the easier it will be for her to give in.
"I am proactive," she said. "I don't push myself, but I don't ignore my body either."
She's happy with how the summer went, as weather affects her body, but so far, so good.
As for those who may be starting to suffer or just thinking they might be suffering from arthritis, Mackenzie is keen to offer advice.
"Get a professional to check you out," she said. "Be active. Don't let the strain slow you down. There is also a lot to be said for alternative medicines, and acupuncture really helps."
A forum discussing arthritis-caused pain and fatigue will take place on Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Dogwood Pavilion, located at 624 Poirier St. in Coquitlam. The event is free, but registration is required. Call 604-714-5550 to register.
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