' Jacqueline Colaco: Defeating Arthritis with Extraordinary Courage

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Jacqueline Colaco: Defeating Arthritis with Extraordinary Courage
By Florine Roche

November 13, 2012

Jacqueline Colaco is a lady with an indomitable spirit and resilience. It is these qualities which have seen her through during the toughest phase of her life. She was a hockey player who represented the country in the national team in 1971 and was always active and chirpy. Her independent streak of mind was her forte and she never compromised on that even when she was affected with a debilitating disease like rheumatoid arthritis and that too at the peak of her life and career at 36.

Now at 63, she is single, financially independent, lives independently with help of domestic help, enjoying gardening, photography and also ‘lazing around’ as she puts it. She is actively associated with the Association of People with Disability rendering her valuable service to the organization which is striving for ‘equality and justice’ for people with disability.

One can say life has not been fair to Jackie. Imagine her situation! The hands that wielded the hockey stick with gay abandon were unable to even hold a book in her hands to read or even do simple personal chores like brushing, eating dressing and bathing, leave alone doing any other domestic chores. Jacqueline life story is awe-inspiring. With her fortitude to overcome adversity in life through her abundant fighting spirit, has made a difference to her own life and to the lives of thousands of people suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis through the Arthritis Foundation (India) she established in 1995.

A Bright Spark

Jackie, as Jacqueline is fondly known to friends and acquaintances is a Mangalorean but born and brought up in Bangalore. Her grandfather was Dr Bonavincher Colaco and her father had studied at St Aloysius College in Mangalore. Her mother was the eldest of the 17 children belonging to a well known family in Bangalore. Being a Railways employee her father had a transferable job and hence the family went on to live in different places but settled in Bangalore. Jaqueline is the youngest of the 7 children and she was an active girl who showed interest in sports. She played hockey for Mysore state between 1964 and 1968 and then went on to represent the country in the nationals.

Of the 7 siblings only Jacqueline is afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis, a disease which had also affected her mother. The disease is said to have no cure and can be managed with drugs and surgeries. “I never questioned the sagacity of ‘why me alone’ kind of factor. I think it is the positive attitude in me that did not allow me to even think on that line”, is her answer on how she coped up with her disease at a time when everything was going great for her.

Overcoming stereotypes where girls were expected to become teachers or secretaries those days, Jacqueline studied B.Com and chose to become a banker and joined Bank of Baroda in Mumbai. “Everyone including my father expected that girls should become teachers or secretaries in office. I had an independent mind and always went by what I wanted. My siblings often tease me saying I always had my own way”, she reminisces.

Tragedy Strikes

Life was going great guns for this beautiful go-getter who was then posted to Bank of Baroda’s branch in Ney York in the 80’s. She experienced stiffness in her legs one fine morning and she tested positive for rheumatoid arthritis when she was in her mid 30’s, just at the pinnacle of her career. She says “I was fortunate to have the best of advice in New York in the beginning stage itself. I also feel into good medical hands when I was diagnosed for rheumatoid arthritis”. But she never felt questioned her fate even in time of distress. Luckily for her when she was in New York her brother-in-law Alan Nazareth was posted as Consulate General in New York and he proved to be of great help to him.

After four years of her term in New York she came to Bangalore but the change of weather from the cold climate did not show any improvement in her. She had four joint replacement surgeries at a young age two at the knee and two at the waist. Yet she was always in pain and she had developed deformity in the form of twisted fingers and feet. Finally Jackie resigned from her job in 1995 after putting in 25 years of service at the bank as she felt she was not able to cope and more so because she did not want to be a burden to the organization.

After resigning from the job she decided to reach out to other people like her afflicted with this debilitating and crippling disease. She co-founded the Rheumatoid Foundation (India) with Dr Thomas Chandy in Banglore. The foundation is based at HOSMT (Hospital for Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine, Arthritis and Trauma) on Magrath Road. The main aim of the foundation is to reach out to arthritis patients to help them cope up with the ailment, provide treatment options, create awareness and also collect funds through programmes, especially for helping poor people for medication and surgeries.

“Rheumatoid arthritis is a crippling disease but in my case it was not that severe and I was not bedridden. May be my positive frame of mind proved to be my greatest strength”, she professes. Despite all her valor she did go through a bout of depression for a brief period of 2 years when she had to go out of the cocoon of her parent’s home and stand on her own. But again her positive attitude helped her go through that period.

Reaching out to People in Need

The Arthritis Foundation completed 15 years in 2011 and Jacqueline has handed over the reins of the Foundation to Dr Chandy as she felt a worthy successor was necessary to continue the work of the Foundation. Now Jackie is associated with the Association for Physically Disabled, of which she is the honorary Treasurer.

Her fortitude, power of resilience and zest for life is evident from the fact that she has written her autobiography “Me, Jacqueline, on My Way” with the help of a single finger of her left hand, sharing her life experiences. The book was released last year to coincide with the completion of 15 years of Arthritis Foundation (India). “I used the mouse with my right hand index finger and the finger has taken the shape of that position”, she says sardonically. Armed with a ‘never say die’ spirit she regularly takes part in the Bangalore Marathon in her wheelchair.

It seems her troubles are never-ending ones. In the last few years she is suffering from epileptic attacks. The positive side of it is that ever since epileptic attack her arthritis has almost disappeared. “For the last 26 years I was on painkillers but now I am out of it for the last one year. I am on medication for epilepsy which makes me drowsy”, she points out.

Jackie who lives in a rented house in Fraser Town in Bangalore says “I have led a life of contentment & fulfillment. Now domestic helps are my indulgences as I have no dependents. Soon I am planning to move into a home for the aged and I absolutely fine about the idea”.

Jackie is no doubt an epitome of courage, forbearance, resilience, dedication and positive approach to life. One can but marvel the way she has handled her life with her positive outlook especially at a time when her life and career came crushing down like a pack of cards. Needless to say she is an inspiration to people facing similar troubles and hardships in life.



Comments on this article
Ravi Shankar, BangaloreSunday, January 27, 2013
Dear Madam,
Great read your article in Deccan Herald. A great attitude you have , and i admire really for this. Madam, for your elliptic attacks, i shall advice you to go voer and meet Dr Satish Chandra, Director/VC of NIMHANS. He has been great with me when i too got a sudden attack of epilepsy when i was around 54 yrs old , working for Ganga Expressway, but for the past three years taking his simple medication, i am on road to recovery. I am doing my regular exercise and all my activities except i need to sleep well for about 7 to 8 hrs.People like Ceaser, Newton, Alexander , Tony Geig, Jhonty Rhodes and many great have undergone this and with proper care have over come this. Madam, you are great and i wish you well. Keep up the courage and your inspiration ,your attitude will help all of us to look forward for a better life.
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jacqueline colaco, bangaloreSaturday, November 17, 2012
nisha printer i thank you for being my physio and seeing me through some of my most difficult times with your sympathetic yet strict approach to make me sit up and walk again after a nasty fall from an epileptic attach kept me bedridden for three months, and for many years till date when you encourage me in all my endeavours and lend a patient ear and be part of my sometimes impossible dreams and goals ...
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Nisha Printer, HyderabadThursday, November 15, 2012
It is a well written article which gives you an insight to this amazing person who has been a source of inspiration not only to me, but to hundreds who have been fortunate enough to know her and become part of her web. She is a great motivational factor in my life and an inspiration to all those who have difficult situations, physically, emotionally and mentally to get past them and get on with life. May God Bless You always and may you continue to be a guiding force to all you meet.
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Renita, mangaloreWednesday, November 14, 2012
Thank You Florine for this inspiring report. It is really an encouraging one to everyone to live one's life meaningfully with utmost trust and hope in the almighty even at times of greater troubles..
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satya, mangaloreTuesday, November 13, 2012
If u want better treatment it's better to go for a CRITICAL ILLNESS Insurance coverage where you can live n diagnose for your illness.
Most of the people are busy in earning money n some younger generation living their life just for day by enjoying their life at the most....we never know what will be the situation when one faces critical illness...the amount of cost of treatment is so much that it gives al ot of financial problems n to the family of the deceased.As in the case of Ms.Jacqueline Colaco she had courage & the support from the well known family of her's.
A salute to a great lady who is reallly helping n reaching out to those who are facing this problem.
And i am sure even she might be given advice to the people to go for Life Insurance coverage which really helps by putting small amount for big coverage for critical illness which will help everyone in family as well as the deceased person.In India people take this insurance investment as tax saving but its really fruit comes only when you face a problem in life.
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Nisha D'Souza, BangaloreTuesday, November 13, 2012
Truely, an inspiration to all who complain about minor ailments. It is the individual courageous fight and faith in the Lord which helps move over afflictions. Thanks Daijiworld for bringing to light such gems who are working tirelessly towards noble causes.
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Richard, Mangalore/U.K.Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Jacqueline, I want to help you, so please visit my website and contact me at the earliest.
Comment on this message     

jacqueline colaco, bangaloreTuesday, November 13, 2012
thanks florine. my advice to those who suffer is forget what you cannot do and concentrate on what you can. there is more than enough left to take you through the rest of your lfe and remember thre almighty always walks beside you and carries you in the palm of his hand...
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Edward C Maben, Mangalore/BangaloreTuesday, November 13, 2012
Everyday a lot of us moan about the troubles and problems we face in daily lives. However we still remain blessed when we come across people like Jackie. Right in the face of tragedy she looks at life she lives as a blessing and in turn does everybit she can do to the society.
Be awesome Jackie! One amazing inspiring life you lead. Remain blessed.
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Joe Britto, Nakre/BangaloreTuesday, November 13, 2012
Jackie is indeed a amazing person.
We remember her with the Hockey stick and her amazing talent in SFX .
One should not forget that her parents were indeed versatile and well known in Fraser Town : Tom & Tilly Colaco on Ahmed Sait Road. Who can forget the fighting qualities of her brother Joe Colaco who sadly passed away with a kidney ailment which he bore patiently for a decade or so. Can we not see the great literary talent of her brother Peter Colaco ! So I guess it all runs in the Colaco family. But surely Hats off to Jackie for her will power and ever smiling face and inspiring life !
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Fr. Melwin Pinto S.J., Mangalore/ RomeTuesday, November 13, 2012
Really inspiring. Its a rare display of courage and fortitude with a positive attitude for almost everything.
Thanks Florine for the wonderful reporting. You are giving us these heartwarming stories in an otherwise depressing scenario...
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David Dsouza, BangaloreTuesday, November 13, 2012
Jackie is an outstanding living personality, a walking talking doing example of an indomitable spirit. An inspiration to more abler people as well as to the challenged. A humbling experience tone in her presence. Jackie is part of an extraordinary club of humanity. Power to you Jackie!.
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Vinaya Soans, Mangalore/BahrainTuesday, November 13, 2012
Thank you so much for the information
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Lancelot D' Costa, Mangalore / Abu DhabiTuesday, November 13, 2012
Really an inspiring article which tells the true life story of a courageous woman who faces life with determination and without self pity inspite of her crippling disease. Would welcome more such articles from the author.
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Dev, MangaloreTuesday, November 13, 2012
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a debilitating & activity crippling disease, which is our own immune system attacking joints & cartilages thinking its foreign invader or auto immune disease.
It can stop just as it has started without any medication, but not treating it early can leave the sufferers permanently disabled.
Alternative medications or food supplements containing antioxidants which stop the free radicals from damaging our own body stops or relieves the symptoms. They are vitamins C & E,Calcium & magnesium with Vitamin D.
Grape seed extracts, green tea, as well as Glucosamine with Boswelia, inculding other vital nutrients help prevent further damage & might reverse the symptoms along with moist heat therapy.
Physio therapy is needed to prevent further damage as well by keeping the joints mobile.
Accupunture can relieve the pain without side effects of NSAIDs.
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