A friendship knotted more tightly than shoelaces has benefitted two Kildonan-East Collegiate students.
Grade 12 students Jessie Sitar and Justin Sinclair have grown close over their years at the school, but it was Sitar’s diagnosis with Wegener’s granulomatosis in 2010 that was a solidifying event for the both of them. The rare disorder causes inflammation of the blood vessels and restricts blood flow to several organs.
In spite of the condition, Sitar ran the half-marathon at last year’s Manitoba Marathon, eclipsing her goal of three hours with a finishing time of 2:42:10. Sinclair ran right beside her all the way.
"Justin kept pushing me," recalled Sitar. "It was hard on my lungs. I had to keep stopping to catch my breath, but he made it easier, definitely.
"It was tougher in the beginning, but once I got a good pace going, it was easier."
Sitar said she’d had stomach pains beginning in Grade 3, and received diagnoses ranging from bronchitis to thyroid problems to pneumonia before determining it was Wegener’s granulomatosis.
Sitar underwent chemotherapy, took cyclophosphamide to slow cell growth, as well as the steroid prednisone. She is now in remission, and is working hard to catch up in her classes after being away for nearly two years.
The pair is pounding the pavement again this year, having organized one five-person relay team that will wear T-shirts to help raise awareness of the condition. They hope to organize another one in time for the race on June 16.
Sinclair is organizing the team as part of a project for his world issues class, which requires him to pick a global problem and make strides toward solving it. Sitar hopes raising awareness of the disease will encourage more people to take up the cause.
Those interested in signing up for the relay team can contact Sinclair at email@example.com
Sinclair said he began doing research on the condition when Sitar was diagnosed, and discovered it’s been diagnosed more often, though the cause is still a mystery.
"Jessie’s been one of my best friends since the start of high school, and I knew she suffered from a rare disease," said Sinclair. "I want to raise awareness and see if we can educate more people, and see if we can work toward a cure.
"I hope we can open some eyes and let (people) know what we’re here for."
Sinclair and Sitar became friends halfway through Grade 9.
"She’s the nicest, most caring person," he said.
"I can’t believe I was scared to talk to (her) for so long."