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No slowing down for Rudder


No slowing down for Rudder

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AFTER FACING a major health scare 16 years ago, June Rudder has been driven to make the best of every day. 

“Every day is precious and be positive about what you’re doing,” is the philosophy of this 66-year-old sports administrator.

Rudder, known for her involvement in sports that dates back to her years competing in the high and long jumps in the 1960s, was hospitalised in 2000 after suffering a lupus flare, a period when the chronic inflammatory disease is active and symptoms worsen.

“I had been having symptoms prior to 2000 but, of course, I didn’t know what it was. I was actually diagnosed before in the 1990s but then I had the really bad flare in 2000.

“That’s when the inflammation becomes so severe that it impedes your ability to function property. I was hospitalised for about three months. In fact, I was to be the coach to the [Sydney] Olympics in that year and I couldn’t go because I was in hospital at the time.”

As a result, she missed experiencing first-hand the history-making run by Obadele Thompson that earned him bronze in the 100 metres race.  

Married for 37 years with three grown children – two daughters and one son – Rudder recalled the challenges she faced at the time.

For her, the first in her family to have lupus, support from those closest to her was critical.

“You become quite helpless and you have to depend, not only on the immediate family, but the extended family. 

“If you have to stop working for a while, obviously the income is affected, but other people will have to chip in with the daily chores around the house. At the peak of my crisis, my children were quite young and I had to get help from my sisters, friends and extended family,” she said.

“Initially, there was a period when I couldn’t do anything and I was able to gradually pick back up and increase the level of functionality, but I still have to be careful. 

“I watch my health, what I eat, don’t spend too much time in the sun, although that one is a difficult one for me; but just being aware of how my body responds. My experience is that the pain from lupus is quite distinctive to normal pain. It’s difficult to explain, but I can recognise what is a lupus pain from what is just muscular.”

Rudder, a strong believer in the Hope Foundation which assists those living with the disease, said it was doing great work.

Run For Hope

 She has been doing her bit by holding the Warrens Run For Hope for the past five years, the proceeds of which go towards bolstering the work of the foundation.

“The medication, like for most other illnesses, is quite expensive and this is why the work of the Hope Foundation is so critical because it can give assistance, especially to those who have been recently diagnosed.”

Barbados has the second highest reported incidence of lupus in the world, second only to Spain. 

President of the Hope Foundation, Shelley Weir, has estimated that an average of 25 people are diagnosed with the disease yearly, the majority being women in their most productive and reproductive years. 

It is also important, Rudder explained, for those living with the disease to avoid focusing on the many negatives in life.

“If you have limes, make lemonade and try to enhance it as best you can. Make the best use of every moment you have,” she advised.

“Be patient with yourself and don’t concentrate on the illness but on consciously getting better.” 

In the meantime, the former longstanding head of the physical education department at Springer Memorial School remains focused on her own sports business, Elite Sports, which she began after her retirement from Springer Memorial in 2001.

She is known for organising track and field events, including the annual Barbados Relay Fair and other road races. 

But it’s no chore for her. After all, she is doing what she has always had a passion for.

“I have absolutely no regrets. My goal now is to try to make my contribution to sports and make it better for sports people. There’s so much to be done and it takes a lot of time, a lot of dedication and it’s more work than the association itself can do. So I’m making my small contribution to it,” she added.

And for those who may think Rudder should be slowing down, imagine that this self-described jogger attempted a half-marathon in May, an event she may take a crack at again. (WILLCOMM)