Jo Walters, a personal trainer from Four Marks whose mother lives with a rare, life-limiting autoimmune condition called scleroderma, is preparing to take on the London Marathon – for a very special reason.
Jo, 36, wants to raise awareness of the condition and fund research to find better treatments and a cure.
She will be running for Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK (SRUK), the only UK charity dedicated to improving the lives of people with scleroderma and Raynaud’s in the UK through information, support and ground-breaking research.
Jo’s mother is one of around 19,000 people in the UK who live with scleroderma.
The condition occurs when the body’s immune system becomes over-active and begins to attack healthy tissue, causing hardening of the skin and, in some cases, other organs.
Likely causes of the condition are still unknown, treatments are limited and there is no cure.
Jo’s mother was undiagnosed for 30 years because of a lack of awareness among healthcare professionals. Jo said: “I’ve always dreamt of running the London Marathon and with my mum turning 70 this year, I wanted to do it in her honour.
“I’ve seen first-hand the huge impact of scleroderma on my mother’s life and how a lack of awareness meant she went undiagnosed for far too long.
“It’s been hard seeing what my mum has gone through – her pain levels are through the roof and she needs surgery later this year.
“Running the marathon is my way of showing her I care and I also want to help ensure others receive the right diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.”
Jo herself lives with Raynaud’s, a chronic and painful condition that affects blood circulation, most commonly in the hands and feet.
She said: “I first noticed signs of Raynaud’s when I was about 16 or 17.
“I was playing netball at school and my hands started changing colour.
“I’ve had it since then and have had to find ways to cope as there’s no cure. I’m determined to keep going, though!”
Jo has set up a fundraising page where people can donate and support her cause.