RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The Arthritis Foundation will host the inaugural Albuquerque Jingle Bell Run for arthritis Dec. 8, and among this year’s honorees is Rio Rancho High School freshman Dacia Marquez, who was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at age 2½.
First, the honoree
Although juvenile arthritis caused her to stop walking at multiple points in her life, she now has the disease controlled and participates in cross country and swimming.
In the spring of 2007, her parents noticed she was walking on her right heel instead of walking heel to toe. Two months later, X-rays showed small cracks in her heel and a significantly smaller calf muscle, but there was no explanation — her right foot stopped growing due to swelling. At the time, the family was living in Aztec.
Her parents had no idea that a child could have arthritis, and it was an overwhelming time. They continued to battle challenges related to juvenile arthritis.
Starting kindergarten, Marquez was unable to walk to her classroom on the first day of school. Her family was shocked to learn that arthritis can cause inflammation in the eyes, called uveitis, which may result in blindness.
Every four to six months, Marquez experienced uveitis flare-ups and had to receive steroid drops and endure many doctor appointments.
In 2015, her left knee and the same right ankle started swelling with pain to the point that she was in tears. The only rheumatologist in New Mexico at the time started her on injections, which helped alleviate her pain, but the uveitis did not subside.
Once again, she switched medications to a biologic that has proven to be effective.
This summer, Marquez attended the Arthritis Foundation’s juvenile arthritis camp, where she met other children dealing with similar situations. It was a life-changing, therapeutic experience, and upon returning, she had a new level of inspiration and new view of what she could achieve in life.
A participant in JROTC, her goal is to attend the Air Force Academy Officer Corps School and become a pilot.
Now, the run/walk
The 5k run and one-mile walk at Tiguex Park near Old Town will have a holiday theme with the goal of raising $40,000 for the foundation’s mission. Participants are encouraged to wear festive costumes.
Taking place in more than 100 cities nationwide, the Jingle Bell Run helps the one in four Americans, including 300,000 children, living with arthritis pain. From funding cutting-edge research for new treatments to advocating for health-care access, the Arthritis Foundation is fighting arthritis.
“Every dollar raised during our Jingle Bell Run events makes it possible for us to provide life-changing information and resources to both children and adults impacted by this painful disease,” said Jen Torres, Arthritis Foundation executive director.
Registration on race day begins at 8 a.m., with the run and walk starting at 9. To learn more and register, visit jbr.org/albuquerque.