Bill Stewart woke up one morning in 2002 to find he couldn’t put any weight on his left knee. He calls this his “welcome to arthritis” moment. It all happened very suddenly. When it happened, he was still working full-time at the investment firm he started in Moncton, New Brunswick. He was used to being active and had always been an avid squash player so it came as a shock to find himself unable to use his legs properly.
With physiotherapy, Bill was able to get back on his feet but it was only with support from his wife and family that he was gradually able to regain his mobility. Even so, osteoarthritis (OA) has had a lasting effect. Bill says he still has to “do things differently overall” and accept the pain that continues to bother him. With knee surgery and two hip replacements that required months of recovery time, he admits “arthritis has really done a number on me!”
Bill is not the kind of person to sit idle. When he was approached in 2012 to join the Atlantic Division Advisory Board of the Arthritis Society which he now chairs, he jumped at the invitation to do something for others living with this unpredictable and serious chronic disease. “One of the things I always tell people is that they probably have someone in their family or close circle who is affected by arthritis. Sure enough, they always agree,” says Bill. Investment in research can have an enormous impact since arthritis affects one out of five people in Canada. Bill also like to point out the tremendous advances in treatment over the years, demonstrating the importance of continued research investment so we can better understand what causes the disease and what we can do to improve the quality of life of people living with arthritis.
Years ago, Bill remembers speaking to the parents of a young child with rheumatoid arthritis who was confined to a wheelchair. The parents told Bill there was very little the doctors could do to help. Nowadays, Bill says, “I see a huge difference in the treatments available to help children suffering from arthritis. It’s unbelievable, the progress we’ve made. I want to do what I can to help.”
After participating in the Walk in Fredericton in 2012, he launched one in Moncton the next year with a few friends and family. The event is still growing, with 100 participants last year and a list of new corporate sponsors to offset some of the costs. Bill is particularly moved by the fact that 30 children and their friends attended the 2017 Walk, many of them suffering from arthritis. “It was so great to see them raising money and connecting in their community,” says Bill. “Every person can make a difference really make a difference. Everyone is here for a different reason but we can all do something. That’s the bottom line in my mind.”