On December 13th, 2014 I had the wonderful opportunity to be the Arthritis Foundation Sacramento Jingle Bell Run Honoree! As part of the gig, I had to give a speech before the run/walk.
I was SO nervous to stand in front of my community of arthritis warriors and share with them what was in my heart. I get emotional when I write about this sort of thing behind the comfort of my computer screen – so I knew that talking about it out loud, face to face with my community would be a difficult task. I also knew that I was going to cry, but at least I was able to hold it in until the end. Can you see me moving my legs? That’s because I felt like my knees were going to buckle. Can you hear my voice shaking? That’s because I was fighting back tears.
If you know me well, then you know that I am very passionate about helping others in my community – I feel an overwhelming need to help and make a difference in their lives. I’m forever grateful to have had the chance to to share my message at the Jingle Bell Run. MY HEART WAS FULL THAT DAY…
Below is video of my speech, as well as the text version. I hope I made you all proud!
Transcript of speech:
My name is Dina Neils. Some of you know me by my nickname Titanium Triathlete. I’m a Spokesathlete for CreakyJoints, an arthritis advocate and blogger. I was diagnosed with RA, and OA 12 years ago when I was 18, however the doctors suspect that RA started when I was 16.
The disease was so aggressive that by the time they diagnosed me, I was already becoming disabled. It seemed like every joint in my body hurt and that I constantly felt ill – the greatest pain was particularly in my feet, knees, hips, hands, elbows and jaw. To make matters worse, it was my first year in college away from home, and I was also was going on my 5th year as a competitive long distance runner.
I remember being in an incredible amount of pain – I remember that I couldn’t get out of bed, my elbow being stuck in a bent position, and my jaw being locked. I remember not being able to walk, not being able to dress myself, brush my hair, chew food, or put my socks on and makeup on.
I’ll never forget when I received my diagnosis – the doctor said to me “you will never run again and you will be in a wheel chair by the time you’re in your 20’s.” Those words froze me and overwhelmed me – I was angry, confused, scared, sad, terrified. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening to my body and the diagnosis – all I knew was that I couldn’t accept that. I told her she was wrong and I walked out.
Long story short, even with an arsenal of the best medical treatment (pain killers, steroids, cortisone shots, self-injections, chemotherapy, and infusions) the disease was unrelenting. Since my diagnosis, I’ve had two total hip replacements, learned how to walk again..twice, and am now a competitive Triathlete. Needless to say, I am still running and I did not end up in a wheel chair.
I didn’t know it at the time, but on the day of my diagnosis I had started to be an advocate for myself. I had started to fight for who I was as an athlete and for the dreams I wanted to achieve.
I want you all to know that you can be your own best advocate, and that you are not alone in this fight – I want you all to know that you do not have to let this horrible disease detour you from your dreams. Don’t ever give up.
I envision a world where arthritis no longer exists – no more suffering, pain, disease, or illness. I envision a cure – I believe that together we can create a world free of arthritis.
Thank you for believing in that vision, for fighting back, for never giving up – for inspiring me every day with your strength and your courage. Especially all of the incredible JA Kids – you truly are my heroes.
And thank you to my family and friends here with me today – I cannot put into words how grateful I am for your undying and overwhelming support, love, and encouragement – and for believing in me, even when I don’t believe in myself.