Dina Neils Runs Circles Around Rheumatoid Arthritis

Dina Neils Runs Circles Around Rheumatoid Arthritis

For Dina Neils, running was everything.  It was more than just her favorite sport; it was a way of life.  As a competitive long-distance runner in college, it helped her find her identity and develop camaraderie with other runners.  However, when she was just a freshman in college, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

The RA diagnosis turned her life upside down.  Not only did she have to focus on schoolwork and learning how to take care of herself as an adult, but she was also living away from home for the first time without the support of anyone familiar.  Seemingly all of a sudden she had to learn to live with arthritis and all the pain and suffering that accompanies it.  To make matters even worse, the disease took away her number one passion – running.

Dina’s arthritis hit her so hard, her doctors said that by her mid-twenties she would be wheelchair bound and would never run again.  They classified her disease as “chronic” rheumatoid arthritis (pain that persists and reoccurs) and it remained that way for the next seven years.  Over the course of that time, Dina recalled that it felt like she was fighting a losing battle.  Her pain would worsen as the days passed, and even though she constantly felt defeated, her illness fueled a sense of determination that one day things would turn around.

But bad news came again.  Dina had lost all mobility in her hips and she had to undergo two hip replacement surgeries.  She had not been able to run in years and she realized that there was nothing she could do.  It was as if arthritis had beaten her.

“Without my support system of great family and friends, a positive outlook, determination, and the grace of God, I would not be where I am today,” Dina claimed.
Dina Neils Runs Circles Around Rheumatoid Arthritis
Although it came at a price, for the two years following her surgery her pain and inflammation dramatically lessened.  Little by little she began to get her old life back.  And that included running.  She began to train again and as she started to regain her strength and her old confidence, she began to run regularly.  Now she’s literally running herself into remission.

“I always wondered why this happened to me,” she said, “because there must have been a purpose. It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve come to realize that the purpose is getting to help others like me by being a source of strength and hope for them when they need it most.”

Dina trains six days per week, running three and doing cross training on the remaining days.  When she’s in the midst of a race and feeling low, she always thinks back to how draining her disease was for her, mentally and physically.  She uses her pain as a motivator, as a weapon to fight her weakness.

“When the run gets hard and my legs feel like giving out, that is when I push harder and don’t give up – it’s where I find my true self and when I feel the most alive. When I finish, I feel rewarded, triumphant – like I could do anything.”

Through the Blue Ribbon Project, Dina found out about the Arthritis National Research Foundation and she has joined the Racing For A Cure Team.  Although she has not done any Racing For A Cure races yet, she has a full schedule of charity races; last year she ran four races, she has a half marathon she’s preparing for this month, along with a few 5 and 10ks later in the year. She’s not letting her RA slow her down!

Unfortunately, Dina’s rheumatoid arthritis has not gone into a complete medical remission.  Her biggest source of discomfort are her wrists, which makes it difficult to hold everyday objects, and her weakened immune system.  Due to a combination of injections, infusions and medications, her immune system has destabilized and she becomes sick often, usually taking weeks to get healthy again.

As far as arthritis research is concerned, Dina wants to make a difference towards finding a cure by raising as much money as she can and recruiting more people like you to support the research effort. Research is the key to finding a cure.

“Do not let arthritis define who you are – do not let it take away who you are. Do not let a doctor’s diagnosis dictate your life. You have the strength to fight this battle.  Stay positive and love yourself, because you are amazing and are stronger than you realize.”

Please make a donation to support rheumatoid arthritis research or if you’d like to share your arthritis story, contact Kyle!

If you are interested in joining Racing For A Cure please visit: https://curearthritis.org/Racing-For-A-Cure

Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. Writing articles about the patients affected and the science being done to find a cure shows why we need to come together to #CureArthritis!

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.