Moving with Purpose | Jodi’s Journey with RA

Moving with Purpose | Jodi’s Journey with RA

Moving with Purpose: Long before Jodi Pettit ever reached the finish line of her first marathon, she had reached the end of her rope with her rheumatoid arthritis (RA) diagnosis. The pain was fierce, widespread, and nothing like Jodi had ever felt before. She wanted nothing more than to just curl up on the couch in misery. However, she decided to do the opposite — move more, not less.

Reluctantly, Jodi hit the ground running, literally, in a last ditch effort to feel better, and to her surprise, the plan worked. As her RA pain began to subside, she was able to run more and more. Eventually running in her first marathon in 2010.

Currently, the Utah-native is not only training for Ironman Arizona in November, but she is also sharing her story to spread awareness about her disabling chronic condition and how she has fought incessantly to overcome it by moving with purpose.

Jodi exiting the water at Ironman 70.3 Vineman

“When I first began exercising, my whole body hurt very badly, but I figured my condition couldn’t deteriorate any more than it already had, so I did it anyway,” explained Jodi. “Shockingly, it made all the difference in the world! My RA finally began to improve.”

The long-distance runner, triathlete and Ironman athlete was not always the athlete she is today. Jodi, now age 37, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at nineteen, and was told that she would be in a wheelchair within ten years of her diagnosis. As her doctor forewarned, she gradually became immobile, frequently parking in handicapped spots to avoid walking far distances. As Jodi lost more and more physical capabilities, she found it increasingly difficult to cope and confessed that it was a “challenging emotional blow” to handle.

Through intensive physical therapy, Jodi eventually bounced back on her feet and regained her lost mobility. With her regained mobility she began running because as she puts it she “hoped it would speed up the damage.” However, the opposite occurred and she was pleasantly shocked to discover both a talent for running and burgeoning passion for the sport.

So, on a whim, she entered the 2010 Provo City marathon, her first ever marathon. After she finished she initially intended to cross the feat off her bucket list as a one time accomplishment. However, the feelings of elation and accomplishment at the finish line overtook her and as tears of joy streamed down her face, Jodi knew that she was hooked. Four years later, Jodi has trimmed several hours off of her initial marathon time, putting her only seventeen minutes away from qualifying for Boston marathon, which is her dream race.

Jodi in her Racing For A Cure jersey

“Running gives me the belief and confidence that I can overcome and conquer any obstacle before me. I love the satisfaction at the end of a race, knowing I did not allow rheumatoid arthritis to defeat me.”

This fall, Jodi is set to compete in Ironman Arizona. The road to the starting line has been an arduous journey that has required patience and unwavering commitment. When she first began training, she described it as taking “one step forward and two steps back.” Despite the backwards steps, all of her hard-earned steps forward have added up and over time. She’s now able to reap the benefits of her exercise, including a reduction in inflammation and an improved sense of well-being.

“I run simply because I can. Through my endurance training I have learned not to avoid and ignore pain, but rather, to endure and embrace it.”

Jodi said that she knows her treatment of her RA is uncommon and that is one reason she wants to share her story. She said that she does not use conventional immunosuppressant medications to control her pain and swelling. Instead, she relies on hormone therapy, supplements, a balanced diet consisting of nutritious, non-processed foods, and most importantly she continues to stay active by moving with purpose.

Jodi with her family at The Color Run

“To any of my fellow RA fighters that have never exercised before — I know it hurts, I know it is scary and you don’t want to make it worse, but you have to move. I know from experience that the more you move, the better you will feel. Even on days I can not walk well I limp to my treadmill or out the door. By the time I get a few miles in I start to feel better and my joints loosen and the swelling goes down and I can move better.”

After experiencing remission during each of her five pregnancies, Jodi is a firm believer that hormones are at the forefront of a potential cure for autoimmune diseases. She staunchly supports the Arthritis National Research Foundation’s research projects, especially those that focus their attention on the role of hormones on disease rheumatoid arthritis and related diseases.

“I would love to see more research on hormonal connections to RA. I believe that RA and other autoimmune diseases are affected by hormones and our understanding of how it works is lacking.”

In a short time, Jodi has turned her life around through her commitment to staying active and moving with purpose. Between her marathon and Ironman training, as well as inspiring her peers to exercise through sharing her uplifting story, Jodi is on a mission and won’t be stopping any time soon. “I have set backs, I need to listen to my body, but I do not quit.”

Jodi on a mountain biking expedition

“I want my children to grow up knowing that their mother was passionate about life and that she lived her life to the fullest. I want to inspire others to not give up when they feel like life is stacked against them with whatever challenge they are facing. Fight back against the pain, and always have hope.”

How are you moving with purpose and what’s your favorite physical activity that you pursue? Tell us in the comments below!

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. There are several ways to support research through the ANRF. Find out more and donate today.

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