Meet Angela Durazo, actress and filmmaker, formally a professional triathlete who is defying the doctors AND writing new rules about survival, endurance competition, and most importantly: perseverance.
Angela is an actress and filmmaker, formally a professional triathlete based out of Los Angeles, California. Two years into Angela’s triathlon racing career, Angela was diagnosed with the chronic pain autoimmune disease Rheumatoid Arthritis.
“Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic, progressively disabling autoimmune disease that effects your muscles, tendons and internal organs in addition to the joints,” Angela explains. “Treatment for RA consists of a cocktail of medications that are needed for the rest of your life to manage the symptoms. Those medications are including but not limited to: Bi-monthly immunosuppressant injections (TNF cell modifiers and low dose chemotherapy), muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, pain killers and steroids”
Upon the start of treatment, Angela’s body rejected the treatment and the RA ‘flared’ in rebellion to the biologic which caused a severe, debilitating magnification of symptoms. “I was weak to the point where I was unable to use my hands. I could not get myself out of bed due to the searing pain and my joints began to lose range of motion due to my inability to move myself around”.
After Angela’s body responded poorly to conventional treatment, Angela was forced to seek relief through solely changes in her diet, supplementation and physical therapy. “With no other choice, I made some very specific changes to my diet, started taking dhea, and focused on regaining my limb mobility through active release techniques and physical therapy. I went from being an aspiring professional triathlete to being unable to walk or open a water bottle. I had to go through months of rehabilitation to try and regain as much range of motion back as I could. This was all very devastating but I remained hopeful that I would be able to get myself back on the course,” Angela recalls.
And back on the course she did return. Angela earned her first amateur podium (top 3 placement) in 2013, 10 months after her RA diagnosis. Angela continued to race that season against able-bodied athletes though it quickly became apparent that from a disease ‘flare’, she had developed permanent damage constricting her arm and hand mobility. Despite her circumstances, Angela still qualified that year as a USA Triathlon Top 10% in the nation in her AG.
In 2014, Angela shifted into racing professionally in the physically challenged PC PT4 division due to permanent loss of mobility she sustained in her shoulders and hands. She also made a statement of validation on behalf of the invisible illness chronic pain community by racing in this division. (Angela later had extensive surgery on her shoulder to shave the bones to provide her some relief from the chronic pain).
At the end of 2014, after 5 years of racing, Angela realized unfortunately that racing had taken its toll on her. Faced with a devastating decision, Angela announced her racing retirement in January 2015. Though she took retirement hard, she decided to focus her pain and energies into developing her other love, acting.
Angela focused on acting school full time at Anthony Meindl’s Acting Workshop. Angela put in over 40 hours a week for 5 months at AMAW to cultivate her talents. Angela reemerged to the public in May 2015 as the Keynote speaker for the 8Th annual Arthritis Introspective National Gathering Conference, the largest community gathering and educational seminar for rheumatoid arthritis patients. Angela discussed her decision to put her health first and retire and her new journey into acting. Angela expressed that she is excited to serve as a vessel for the RA community by sharing her story and the story of others who suffer through the new platforms provided for her by her acting engagements.
Within weeks of reemerging, Angela filmed her first supporting role in the indie short film ‘Dried Up’. Two weeks later, Angela filmed her first supporting in the indie feature film ‘LIMBO’. Three weeks later, Angela filmed her first lead as the sweet and mysterious “Natasha” in indie short film ‘Safe House’. Three weeks after that, Angela was picked up as the lead “Jean” in the arthouse 1940s period piece short film, ‘Baby, Baby’ and Angela also landed the lead ‘Jessica’ in the touching short film”Change of Heart”. Suffice to say that Angela’s transition into acting has indeed been met with love and encouragement from the Hollywood acting community.
Angela also continues to work directly a medical community that supports her. “I work with a team that includes: rheumatologists, sports medicine, internal medicine, immunologist, general medicine, physical therapists, scientists and researchers. We are careful and thorough with my disease management. It is prudent that we keep a close eye and that I am setting the best example that I can for my fans and patients. With great opportunity comes great responsibility and I am honored and humbled to be a figure of encouragement and inspiration for the RA community”.
Angela is not only breaking the rules for herself, she’s writing new ones for others who might find themselves in similar shoes