Mercy is five years old. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid factor-positive Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, a disease with the same aggressiveness as adult rheumatoid arthritis, putting her in a category that less than 5% of children diagnosed are in. Currently she is on a combination of Methotrexate and Enbrel biologics, the latter not working as well as doctors would have hoped.
“We’d hoped to get a few years out of Enbrel, but it’s not looking promising,” Mercy’s mother said. “We need other options, preferably ones that promote real remissions and even cures.”
It is evident that Mercy cannot function like other five year olds, like her friend Frank, for example, whose biggest concern in life is whether or not he made his friends laugh at school, or having to choose between playing soccer or rugby. Instead, Mercy has to wait in fear every week for the night when she has to have her medical injections.
Some days are better than others, when Mercy can move around and play like a five year old should. But symptoms have gotten worse and the normality only last for about a week before a flare-up immobilizes her. She is living in constant fear of when she will be overcome with pain and the inability to walk. Mercy’s mother has a special needs stroller that allows her move her around on bad days.
But that’s where Heidi comes in.
Heidi is Frank’s mom, who, being a mother, knows how difficult it is to see a child in pain. She and Mercy’s mother are dear friends and Heidi knew she had to do something to help. Conveniently, she is a tri-athlete and has competed in races for the past four years. When Mercy’s mother told Heidi about ANRF’s Racing For a Cure team, Heidi jumped at the chance and asked immediately to join. She knew it was her opportunity to help Mercy.
This year Heidi is taking it a step further. She will be competing in the Boise Ironman 70.3, a half-ironman distance race in Idaho. It is a combination of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run (total of 70.3 miles) all completed back to back. It will be her second 70.3 distance race and her 6th triathlon.
Heidi says that unlike her other races, this year it isn’t about her. “I am doing something that right now Mercy may never be able to do, and any pain I endure in a race is nothing compared to what she struggles with almost daily,” says Heidi. “I am swimming, biking, and running in her place and raising money and awareness at the same time.”
She trains twice per day, five to six days per week, switching between exercise disciplines and adding in strength training and stretching. On race day, she will have trained for a total of twenty weeks, all for Mercy and arthritis awareness. She plans to one day compete in the Escape From Alcatraz race in San Francisco with Racing For A Cure.
“I would love to see more options available for children,” Heidi said regarding new developments in arthritis research. “It should not be a choice of whether to give your child a medication to help improve day to day function but risking long term complications.”
For those thinking that racing in a triathlon is impossible for them to achieve or think it is never something they could accomplish, Heidi disagrees. She says it’s all about taking small steps that lead to a larger victory. Every donation dollar or daily run or swim is one step closer to achieving the bigger goals: recovery and finding a cure for arthritis.
“I am so incredibly blessed and touched to be racing for Mercy this year, it’s something that has been life altering and I will never be the same after it. I appreciate the opportunity to share not my story, but hers.”
To help Heidi reach her goal for Mercy, make a donation to her efforts at http://www.active.com/donate/Racing4ACure/racingformercy