Heather Bliss co-chaired the 7th Annual Santa Barbara Arthritis Walk in May, to fight this disease that affects 46 million Americans—and a disease Heather has struggled with for nearly twenty years. Twelve years ago, doctors told Heather Bliss that her arthritis would force her into a wheelchair within a decade, but Heather has fought back, and is now speaking out about arthritis and inspiring others in the fight against the disease.
How long have you lived in Santa Barbara?
I moved to Santa Barbara when I graduated from high school at the age of 17. I have been in Santa Barbara on and off since then. I just can’t stay away!
What is your favorite local restaurant?
Brophy’s, hands down! Love the GBC’s (garlic baked clams), love the people, love the atmosphere!
What is your favorite music you like to listen to/work out to?
Depending on the type of workout, I listen to whatever might coincide. For example, if I am just taking a long beach walk with my dog, Delilah, I’ll listen to some Jack Johnson. But if I’m sweating it out on the elliptical or running the stadium at Santa Barbara City College then I’ll probably be listening to something a little more fast-paced like old school Green Day, Offspring, or some Sublime.
When and how did you get involved with health and fitness?
I was heavily involved in sports all through high school. I loved physical fitness so much that I decided to major in it in college. After my diagnosis with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) I changed my major to nursing, realizing that it was important to understand all that I could about my disease as well as stay healthy. I am fascinated by medicine!
What was your motivation behind starting?
My main motivation would have to be being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Even though there is not yet a cure, I am determined to beat this. It is so important to stay healthy and fit as well as keeping informed about the disease.
What are some of your health and fitness accomplishments?
I think my biggest accomplishment would have to be the fact that I am doing everything that doctors once told me I would not be able to do again. I was told that by the time I turned 34 I would be in a wheelchair permanently. I still run, I still play volleyball, I still water ski and snowboard. I am still able to be active and that to me is huge!!
What has been the biggest challenge in staying fit and healthy?
I have had 4 major reconstructive surgeries all as a result of RA. Both feet have screws in them, the tendons in my right hand have been stretched over in an attempt to reshape my hand, and I have a metal plate and 8 screws in my left wrist. I think the biggest challenge would have to be living with RA.
What inspired you to become part of the Arthritis Walk?
Not only because I am living with RA but because there are so many people with Arthritis. Even one person can help make a difference!
How did the walk go this year?
The walk went awesome! We had a huge turn out and so much support! It really brought the community that much closer.
How much money did the walk raise?
I believe we reached our goal of close to $90,000!
How can others get involved in the walk next year?
Check out the website, arthritiswalksb.org or contact the Santa Barbara Arthritis Foundation.
How do you inspire others to be fit and healthy?
If I can do it, so can you! Never give up the fight!
What are some of your favorite hobbies and sports?
During the summer, I enjoy water skiing, kayaking, beach volleyball and long walks on the beach. In the winter, it’s all about heading up to the mountains!! Snowboarding, skiing, and log cabins with my fiancé and Saint Bernard, Delilah!
Who and what are your inspirations?
I know it may be a little cliché but my mom. She has been an RN in the emergency department for over 30 years. She has picked me up every time I have fallen down since my diagnosis. She has been there to remind me to never give up on my hopes and dreams.
What are your future health and fitness goals?
To always stay active. I may not be able to run that marathon I always wanted to, and I may not be the professional athlete I thought I would be but I can still keep up with the best of them. I can do everything that my doctors said I had to stop doing. My goal is to never lose sight of that and never take my health for granted!
What are you most proud of?
The fact that I didn’t give up when I really wanted to. I have my family and friends to thank for that!
If I can inspire at least one other person with my story than I am one step closer to my fight against arthritis.