Arthritis ambassador promotes awareness
September 28, 2010
By Laura Geggel
Issaquah’s Peggy Timmins has lived all over the world, and she sees no reason to slow down now, even with arthritis plaguing her hips, toes, knees and fingers.
In spite of her maladies, Timmins plans to attend the third annual Bellevue Arthritis Walk, where she will share information from the Arthritis Foundation and raise awareness about the federal Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act.
So far, Timmins has participated in the Kitsap, Tri-Cities and Tacoma arthritis walks, and at every venue she gathers more signatures in support of the act.
She may travel far throughout the Puget Sound region for the walks, but she has traveled even more on a global scale. The native New Yorker has lived in places including South Carolina, Ukraine, France, Vienna and the U.S. Virgin Islands. When living in St. Croix from 2003-2006, she found that the humidity affected her joints.
“I mostly noticed it going up stairs,” Timmins said. “I noticed it in my hips and my knees.”
There are three types of arthritis affecting more than 1.3 million people in Washington. Timmins lives with osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. With osteoarthritis, the joint cartilage wears down, causing bones to rub against each other, which results in stiffness, pain and loss of joint movement.
Rheumatoid arthritis happens when the lining of the joints becomes inflamed, damaging the joints, causing pain and resulting in loss of function. The third type, juvenile arthritis, is any type of arthritis that develops in people younger than 18.
The walk includes a one-mile and a three-mile course. Last year, the walk raised $36,000. Proceeds go toward research, free family camps for children living with arthritis and free public forums about arthritis.
“Arthritis is this disease that people don’t really acknowledge as being a disease,” like cancer or diabetes, Arthritis Foundation special events coordinator Annie Omata said.
Many people think arthritis only affects the elderly, but the disease can affect children and adults of all ages, she said. Arthritis affects one in five Americans and in 2030 it could affect one in four, according to a study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Timmins found her arthritis took a turn for the worse after she helped build a Habitat for Humanity house in Portugal in 2009. Her hands started to bend and swell, and it was painful when she bumped them, she said.
“I’m not going to do a Habitat for Humanity project again, not if it does this to me,” she said, pointing at her fingers.
When living on St. Croix, Timmins’ husband also had arthritis, but his did not affect him as much, Timmins said. When she could no longer do as much, her husband told her that he felt he had lost a playmate, and their relationship began to deteriorate. Eventually, for a variety of reasons, the two divorced.
When she moved to Issaquah in 2009, Timmins decided to learn more about her diagnosis. After calling the Arthritis Foundation, she learned about a talk at Providence Point. The Arthritis Foundation so liked her enthusiasm, its director asked her to become an arthritis ambassador, helping alert federal legislatures about arthritis issues and research.
“I wanted to learn more information about what was happening to me,” she said, explaining her dedication to the arthritis ambassador program.
In March 2010, Timmins traveled to Washington, D.C., and talked with U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and met with an aide of Congressman Dave Reichert. All three lawmakers are now co-sponsors of the Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act, which would strengthen arthritis public-health initiatives and help with early diagnosis and treatment.
Timmins and other supporters of the act also want it to provide money for the National Institutes of Health, which could provide more grant money for arthritis research, and the CDC, which helps raise awareness about arthritis and gets people moving. If people are moving, it could help decrease health costs in the future, Timmins said.
“People have a tendency to think, ‘Oh, I hurt. I don’t want to move,’” said Timmins, who keeps moving, because “I would like to prevent joint replacements simply because of the cost.”
She has joined local hiking clubs and the Coal Creek Family YMCA, not only to exercise, but also to spend time with her grandchildren.
“I am not able to contribute to my community like I would like to, so I need to keep moving so I can do things,” Timmins said.
Call the Pacific Northwest Chapter Arthritis Foundation Helpline at 1-800-542-0295 toll free or go to www.arthritis.org.
Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or email@example.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.