Citizen Staff Writer
When she set out to hike the 800-mile Arizona Trail last spring, Sirena Dufault worried that she might not finish.
The daunting trail stretches from Utah to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Tucsonan Dufault’s concern stemmed from her decade-long battle with fibromyalgia, a little-understood chronic pain disorder.
“I was a little hesitant to publicize it because I didn’t know how far I could go,” Dufault said this week. “Now I can comfortably do a 15-mile day with a big pack, no problem.”
Tuesday – on national Fibromyalgia Awareness Day – the 35-year-old will make a final, eight-mile hike north of Oracle to complete the trail, trudging from the Tiger Mine Trail head to the American Flag Trail head.
Dufault kept an online journal throughout her trek, which she made mostly by herself in one- to five-day trips. Tuesday’s leg will mark the 80th day Dufault has spent on the trail.
Dufault said she hopes her success will inspire the 10 million Americans who suffer from the disorder. “There’s not a whole lot of positive information out there about people getting their lives back after fibromyalgia.”
Fibromyalgia’s symptoms include chronic, widespread body pain, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association. Symptoms can stem from an acute illness or injury, as in Dufault’s case. Her diagnosis came in 1998, a year after she was hit by a car as she crossed a street. For months afterward, even as her initial injuries healed, Dufault’s pain and fatigue worsened.
“I saw her probably at her worst,” said Angi Edge, a nurse and massage therapist who treated Dufault after her diagnosis and became a fast friend. “So many people give up on themselves. They become their disease. She was just not going to give up.”
Dufault’s pain has not flared up in a major way in the past three years, she said. “I attribute that to being very, very active.”
For her next big adventure, Dufault might hike the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon. She walked 25 miles of that 90-mile trail last winter.