Katherine Heckman has been a runner since high school. Most weekdays, she’d eat up five or six miles of road for breakfast before heading off for school or work. And on the weekend, the sky was the limit.
“It’s probably that runner’s high that kept me running,” says Heckman, 40, of South Windsor, Conn. “I loved putting on my earphones and running forever.”
Nearly 15 years ago, Heckman was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. “I knew there was no cure, but I knew I had a choice: I could choose to live with arthritis or I could choose to let arthritis live with me — on my terms,” she says.
Heckman continued to run for the next five years. “My hands would swell and my feet got so sore. But I was determined not to let this disease change my life. It took me a long time to accept that the pain had become excruciating. I finally stopped running.”
Over the next several years, Heckman had 14 surgeries to replace joints, remove nodules and correct deformities. She also took several medications to help manage the disease. They left her feeling weak and tired. Then she began taking Arava, a relatively new disease-modifying therapy, and she started feeling better and stronger. And she started walking for exercise.
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