Kaitlyn Clark is Punching Her Way Past Rheumatoid Arthritis

“My feet would hurt every day (when) I would wake up,” said Clark, an amateur boxer from Sarnia. “It was like pins and needles in my feet. It was like fire. I didn't know what it was and my knee started hurting and [the pain] was always on both sides of my body. So it was never an injury. It was just this dull, really uncomfortable ache.”

There were times when Clark’s skin felt prickly, or she had troubles sleeping at night, which then led to fatigue. Clark, now 28, was just 24 years old and a Carleton University student when she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Also known as R.A., the condition is a disorder that causes the immune system to attack the body’s joints.

What Clark was experiencing were the symptoms of R.A.

She refused to let it take over her life, instead forging ahead in her love for boxing. In December, Clark, who at the time trained at an Ottawa boxing club, earned bronze in the 2017 Ontario Golden Gloves. In June, Clark, now at her hometown gym, Bluewater Boxing Club, earned silver at the 2018 Ontario Bronze Gloves Tournament in Toronto.

“It’s been a journey, but it’s taught me a lot about myself,” Clark said.

It strengthened my will and my perseverance and made me a stronger person.

Due to R.A., most gloves Clark has used to have a shelf life. Once the material breaks down and is unable to protect her hands, R.A. symptoms return, and she is unable to bend her fingers, making tasks like typing or opening a jar at home difficult due to the swelling.

“So for me, it’s like I need to have equipment that’s going to keep my joints safe and my body safe so that I can do my sport [and] I can also live a healthy life in the future and also right now,” she said.

Clark found the protection she needs in the Hayabusa T3 Boxing Gloves. The gloves feature five layers of padding, a patented wrist locking system, and splinting that keeps the hand from bending back when punches land at awkward angles.

“[With] my Hayabusa gloves I can pound on the bag with them, and they’re still in pretty good shape. I find that they have protected my hands a lot more,” Clark said. “I do enjoy using them and its definitely good for me in the long term.”

Clark kept her diagnosis quiet, keeping it only to her circle of close friends and family, but in 2016, she slowly began to tell others. Letting others in is a decision she doesn’t regret.

Fellow boxers offered their support and were surprised because they never noticed any discomfort or lack of tenacity from Clark. A trainer told her she had clients and athletes who found any excuse not to box or train. It wasn’t the case for Clark. She continues to work hard and has made modifications to her workouts.

Clark believes there is something bigger than herself in all of this.

“It also drives knowing that there could be a kid in the gym that has something that I don't know about, but they know that I have R.A. and they see me train hard, and that inspires them to also train hard and realize that whatever condition they have it’s not going to stop them. They can do whatever they want.”