Abbotsford woman takes steps for arthritis

Sitting at the kitchen table, Penny Rickaby gently clasps her coffee cup.

Penny Rickaby sits in her kitchen with dogs Maggie and Roxy.

Penny Rickaby sits in her kitchen with dogs Maggie and Roxy.

Sitting at the kitchen table, Penny Rickaby gently clasps her coffee cup. The tips of her fingers stick out from the wrist braces she wears. They’ve become a second skin.

Her dogs Maggie and Roxy jump up around her feet and she shoos them out the door, waving her hand. She stops and winces from the pain.

Her hands, like her feet, ankles and back, are riddled with rheumatoid arthritis.

She won’t be able to run at this year’s Jingle Bell Walk and Run for Arthritis on Nov. 20. But she’ll be there, shuffling around Mill Lake.

It’s an important event for Rickaby, 63, who has been plagued with the condition since her early 30s.

From the time she first displayed symptoms up until her 50s, Rickaby’s illness went undiagnosed.

The doctors even thought that she might have cancer.

Tumours developed from the arthritis, wrapping around her ribcage, covering her chest and surrounding internal organs.

Rickaby has since had a bilateral mastectomy and hysterectomy to relieve the discomfort.

The scars from her surgeries remain hidden, just as the arthritis is hidden.

“If it was a visible disability or deformity, you would be more acknowledged,” Rickaby said, who added that she has also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.

When her three children were between the ages of 10 and 12, she was bound to a hospital bed within her home, because she couldn’t walk.

Today,  the 11 pills she takes daily allow her to move around the house she shares with her companion. She also takes injections of anti-inflammatories and biologics.

But many of the medications suppress the immune system. What could be the standard fall flu for most could be life-threatening to her.

Unable to work, Rickaby relies on the $700 per month that she receives from her ex-husband’s pension plan.

It is the sheer will to get up and continue that has her moving forward.

Rickaby’s eldest grandchild was just recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The condition is hereditary. Rickaby’s mother also suffered from the condition.

“As long as I can get up and move, even on days that I can’t, I still do. Otherwise you would just fade away.”

The Jingle Bell Walk and Run is a one-to five-kilometre walk/run created to raise funds and awareness for The Arthritis Society.

The event will kick off at 1 p.m. on Nov. 20 at Mill Lake, just off Mill Lake Road., behind Sevenoaks Shopping Centre.

To register call 604-714-5550 or visit www.jbwr.ca.