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« on: November 03, 2007, 10:45:40 pm »



High-speed fun helps this mom live with illness
33-year-old from Paso suffers from diseases including lupus and arthritis and found a healthy outlet in the women’s sport



Mia Arnold’s friends use yoga classes or puttering in the garden to escape the everyday stress of being a wife and mother.

The 33-year-old Paso Robles woman prefers something a little more hard core — competing in roller derby.

She describes the feeling of skating fast around the rink as close to a memory she has of skating around her neighborhood when she was 10 years old, with the wind in her hair.

“I skated in a time in my life when I felt the happiest. There’s nothing like it. You forget about the danger, like you did when you were little,” she said.

The fact that Arnold can skate at all —she suffers from mixed connective tissue diseases, including arthritis and lupus — is amazing.

Though she hasn’t had a flare-up of the diseases—which can sap her energy and leave her bedridden — in 10

years, Arnold says her health has improved remarkably since she joined the Central Coast Roller Derby team nine months ago.

“It was a shell shock to my body. I’ve never been more sore in my life,” she said of the rookie boot camp that all women go through before they can begin competing. “But now, I’ve had more energy than I’ve ever had.”

At first, though, she had trouble skating for more than 10 minutes without becoming exhausted.

Arnold’s perseverance has made her a role model for some of her team members, who call each other “derby sisters.”

Often, practices will become family gatherings, with some women bringing their children to play at the park while they skate. Arnold and her husband, John, have two daughters, Faith and Eden.

“Mia is such an amazing woman,” said Cary “Seńorita Cheba” Jones, founder of the local roller derby team. “She’s always willing to help out the league in any way she can, as well as her fellow derby sisters. And she has no idea just how much of an amazing skater she really is. She’s so humble! The league loves her!”

Jones started the team in January 2006. Since then, more than 40 women have come out to try the retro sport, which blends skating skill and agility with hard-core competitive instincts.

Arnold is a jammer, a role she describes as “a lamb amongst the wolves,” who tries to make it through the pack of skaters before the other team’s jammer to earn points.

She went to her first roller derby contest with her brother Julio, who told her after they arrived that the team was recruiting.

She initially was intimidated by some of the women she saw in the rink; some sported tattoos and “looked a little rough” during the bout. But when she saw them hugging their parents, children and grandparents afterward, it drew her in.

“These women are extraordinary athletes,” Arnold said. “They’ve lost track of how many games they’ve been in. For me, when I’m shaking and nervous and terrified and excited, they’re eating CornNuts and drinking Gatorade.”

She also was drawn to the sport because of the contributions made to local charities.

More than $7,000 has been donated to groups such as the North County Women’s Shelter, Jones said. This month’s contest in Paso Robles will benefit a San Luis Obispo home for medically fragile children.

Arnold chose her nickname, “Pow-Ow,” to honor her American Indian heritage and love of family gatherings. Her teammates voted to switch the “wow” to “ow” to “derby it up,” she said.

She hasn’t suffered any major injuries while competing, and her doctor has given her his blessing to continue skating because it is helping her physically, she said.

But she benefits emotionally as well.

“I got to the point where even though my life was good as a mother and a wife, you start to lose focus of who you are,” she said, describing days spent going to Wal-Mart, Food 4 Less, her daughter’s school and PTA and Brownie meetings.

Though she loves her role as a wife and mom, Arnold says, it’s a relief to be able to express another side of herself.

“When I look in the mirror, I see myself again, and above all, that feels good,” she said.

“It’s such an amazing women’s support system. We’re all going through journeys individually, and we’re skating alongside while we’re doing it and helping each other through.”
« Last Edit: November 03, 2007, 10:49:39 pm by Admin » Logged


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