Inspiring Latina: Meet Angela Durazo, A Triathlete With Rheumatoid Arthritis

"Rheumatoid arthritis is the best thing that ever happened to me."

Angela Durazo never believed she would say those words. 

She was 24-years-old and 25 pounds overweight when she decided she wanted to pursue a newfound passion: Triathlons. She made the controversial decision to forgo a career in law and instead pursue triathlons professionally. Unfortunately, a few years later, her entire world flew into flux when she received the news that she had rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease that affects the joints in her body and causes her severe, chronic pain.

This incredible Latina refused to let her diagnosis define her. Instead, she took control of her disease through diet and physical therapy. Now, she's back on track as a professional triathlete, training seven days a week for up to five hours a day. Later this year, she'll be competing in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon presented by Equinox to raise funds for Pediatric Cancer Research!

Meet triathlete Angela Durazo -- one inspiring Latina! 

When did you first become interested in triathlons?

When I was 24, I was finishing up some of my undergrad degree as a paralegal. I had my eye on becoming an attorney, but I felt like something was missing in my life. As much as I enjoyed law, I didn't like the atmosphere. I had a friend that was trying out for triathlons, and I thought 'Wow! This is insane. I don't know why anyone would do that!' I immediately signed up for one, and decided I wanted to race one. That first one that I raced, something clicked inside me. I decided I wanted to be a professional triathlete.

I was about 25 pounds overweight at the time. I couldn't run a mile to save my life. I had no running experience. I didn't have a bike. I didn't know how to swim. I didn't even own a one-piece swimsuit. But, I decided that I was going to finish my degree and leave the law firm to become a professional triathlete. 

When did you first find out you had rheumatoid arthritis? 

About two years into my triathlon career, I started to get symptoms. I had just started training with the best coaches in the world. I had put all of my eggs in the triathlon basket. Then, I started to have these really weird pains. Because I was training under such a prestigious coach, I knew it wasn't anything to do with my training exactly. 

I ended up having to go through seven primary care doctors, because they could not understand how to look at this situation. Seven months later, I started to have really bad pain in my arm. It felt like somebody was taking a knife and scraping it on my bone. It wasn't until I started to have Ulnar deviation in my fingers that my doctors realized there was something going on that was not related to my training. They referred me to a rheumatologist, and upon my first visit, he diagnosed me.

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About this author

Cristina Arreola, Editorial Assistant

Originally from El Paso, Texas, Cristina Mari Arreola earned her degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University before moving to BrooklynNew York. In her downtime, you can usually find her scouring the city for the most authentic Mexican food (still looking...), scaring herself silly watching horror movies, or baking her favorite sweets. You can follow her on Twitter at @c_arreola

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