Arthritis Walk aims to find a cure

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published April 1, 2015

Bonnie Quinn, 73, of Clarkston, was shopping at a friend’s boutique recently and had to use the restroom.

She couldn’t unlock the door to let herself out because she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.

“I don’t have any strength in my hands,” said Quinn, who was diagnosed 36 years ago. “It does make you angry and frustrated. They got a coat hanger and poked it in the lock. They got me out. It was laughable and annoying.”

She said that her anger starts when she gets out of bed in the morning and wonders if she will fall that day. Will she have to cancel appointments because the weather is bad, and will her feet get her around without a lot of pain?

Quinn is an honoree for this year’s 2015 Detroit Walk to Cure Arthritis at the Detroit Zoo, sponsored by the Great Lakes Arthritis Foundation. She also volunteers her time to answer phones at the Arthritis Foundation office, located in Troy.

“I’m not willing to give up,” Quinn said. “I used to be a dancer. I used to cook and bake. This created limitations. It’s time to quit dismissing it (as something inevitable).”

According to the Arthritis Foundation, 2.3 million adults and 10,300 children in Michigan have arthritis. Arthritis causes slow and painful deterioration of the body’s joints, bones, ligaments, cartilage and tendons. As the disease progresses, pain significantly increases and mobility decreases. 

Mary Sue Lanigan, director of development for the Arthritis Foundation, Great Lakes Region, said that arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.

There is no known cause or cure; however, medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including naproxen, can reduce inflammation and relieve pain. The drugs can cause stomach ulcers and bleeding and other side effects, according to the “Arthritis Today 2014 Drug Guide.” 

Lanigan said that biologic drugs, which can cost thousands of dollars a month out of pocket, may also help to bring about good outcomes.

A bill, the Patients’ Access to Treatments Act, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last week that would cap out-of-pocket expenses for specialty tier medications,  such as biologics, which help with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cancer, lupus and hemophilia.

“Meds help, but their effectiveness wears off,” explained Chris Cahill, community development manager with the Arthritis Foundation, Great Lakes Region.

When Emily Maiorana, now a sophomore at Troy Athens High School who plays on the soccer team, was 6 years old, her mother, Terese, noticed her daughter’s knuckles seemed large. The pediatricians brushed her off, but Maiorana’s parents didn’t give up. At age 9, Emily Maiorana was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in her thumbs, ankle and knee.

She said she is open about her arthritis with her friends. She said she thought the stiffness she felt was normal.

“My joints felt sleepy,” she said.

Lanigan said that children often grow out of it.

Maiorana said she went into remission for a year, but the symptoms came back. She takes 500 milligrams of naproxen twice a day, and a low dose of chemotherapy once a week.

“It’s nice my friends always want to learn more about it,” she said. “It’s refreshing.”

“Children with arthritis face barriers to get what they need,” said Cahill. “With 10,300 kids, it’s difficult to get a diagnosis.”

Cahill said that there are only four board-certified pediatric rheumatologists in Michigan, and they are at the University of Michigan, the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, and facilities in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

“I’m really lucky,” Emily Maiorana said.

She said she gets sore during soccer games but she adjusts to it. She is an honoree in the 2015 Detroit Walk to Cure Arthritis at the Detroit Zoo.

Terese Maiorana said the Arthritis Foundation was an invaluable resource when her daughter was diagnosed.

“It blew my mind when she was diagnosed,” Terese Maiorana said.

Quinn and Emily Maiorana go for blood testing every three months. Like Quinn, Emily Maiorana is an honoree for the 2015 Detroit Walk to Cure Arthritis. 

Cahill said that events such as the Walk to Cure Arthritis, sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation and Beaumont Hospitals, serves to raise awarenes, research funding and funds to lobby for bills such as the Patients’ Access to Treatments Act.

Registration for the Walk to Cure Arthritis will start at 7 a.m. May 9 at the Detroit Zoo, 8450 W. 10 Mile Road in Royal Oak. The opening ceremony will start at 8 a.m. Participants may walk 1, 2 or 3 miles. Participants are asked to raise $100. Snacks will be served. Registration includes all-day admission to the zoo. Register in advance at www.arthritiswalk.org or call (855) 529-2728.