Joella’s Story

My name is Joella Baker. I’m the founder of Get Fit Families. Nine years ago I was diagnosed with Lupus, an auto-immune disease that attacks a persons immune system and can cause a number of symptoms including joint pain, fatigue, rashes, headaches, hair loss, and in severe cases organ damage or blood disorders.

I had always been an athlete. I competed in track and Cross Country in high school and went on to compete at the Division 1, collegiate level for Duquesne University in Cross Country, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track and Swimming. I would spend my summers training for triathlons to stay fit for the collegiate season, and I completed my first marathon in 1989 in Pittsburgh.

I continued my training on and off after graduation, enjoying the occasional triathlon, marathon and local running races. In October of 1999 I was training for the Las Vegas marathon when I got very sick. I was sick for months, and on December 23, 2000 I woke up with a rash all over my body, swollen joints, and when I tried to get out of bed, I fell to the floor. I couldn’t stand up. My joints were swelled and I was completely exhausted.

I made a trip to the emergency room and they had no idea what to do with me, so they sent me home. The next morning, I was even worse. I again went to the emergency room and was placed on Prednisone to relieve the swelling. After several trips to my Primary Care Physicians office, the hospital for tons of blood tests and my Rheumatologists office, I was diagnosed with Lupus in May of 2001.

My life had changed. I couldn’t exercise for 9 months, I was told I may never run another marathon again. I was on Prednisone and another drug called Plaquenal to help with inflammation and my symptoms. I was gaining weight every day. I was depressed, scared and extremely frustrated.

One day I decided I wasn’t going to live like that any longer. I remember waking up one morning. It was the summer of 2001 and thinking I need to do something. I put on my running shoes (then a size 8, because my feet were always so swelled) and headed out the door. I live on the top of a huge hill and all I wanted to do was run to the end of my street and back. Every step I took was excruciating. I didn’t make it to the end of my street. I made it to the bottom of my hill and I had to walk back up. I was discouraged, but I didn’t give up. Each day I added a little bit more. Soon I was able to jog 3 miles without too much pain. If I was having a bad day, I would take that day off. I took it slow, but it was working.

I decided I would try to run the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2002. I knew it would be a lofty goal and I knew I would need some help to reach my goal. My friend Tami was the person who I must thank for helping me. We agreed to run 4 days a week at 7:00 AM. Rain, shine, sleet, snow, we would meet to go and run. There were some mornings when I had to call and cancel because my body just didn’t feel right that day. She didn’t bother me about it, she would simply say, “see you tomorrow”. Tami made running fun for me again. Most of all, by having her to meet, it made me do it. Even on the worst of days, I got to the point where I would try to run through the pain so I could meet my friend. I went on to complete the 2002 Pittsburgh Marathon in 4:34. Far from my best marathon, but probably one of the most rewarding marathons. The highlight of the race was having my husband Scott run the last 5 miles with me.

The point I’m trying to make is I’m just like everyone of you. I’ve been down and out and I’ve been to that point where you want to give up and I’m here to tell you to keep going. Since that 2002 Pittsburgh Marathon, I’ve gone on to complete 9 other marathons, including Boston twice. I’ve finished eight ½ Ironman’s. Numerous triathlons and road races and bike tours and in November, I completed my first Ironman in 11:45:16. I’m now training for my first Ultra Marathon while training a lot of people from the Southwest Butler Area for the Pittsburgh marathon or Half Marathon.

I love to run, bike and swim. I love the social aspects and the physical rewards I receive from exercise and most of all, I love to share my experiences with others and help them reach their goals and their potential. That’s what is at the heart of Get Fit Families. I am now living with Lupus and I’m in control of it, living my life with my husband and my 7 year old son and I have some of the best training partners I can ask for, my friends.

Today I am a USAT Certified Coach, USAT Certified Youth Coach, Certified Spinning Instructor and a Certified Personal Trainer through the International Sports Sciences Association.

Now I want to share what I’ve lived through with others. Through Get Fit Families, I’m hoping to show you how to get your life back on track through exercise and nutrition. I want to share my experiences with you. I want to help you and your families love exercise and to make it a part of your daily life. So give us a chance. Join our team and let us inspire you to change your life and your lifestyle.

Remember, I’m just like you. I’m just your average person who has faced some challenges, but with some hard work and mental strength, I’ve learned to overcome those challenges.

Thank you for reading my story. Now it’s time for you to write your story.