On the surface, Randy Wold’s biography doesn’t stand out much from the other racers’ featured on the Purple Reign Racing team website. But for Randy, simply entering a race is victory enough. For the last several years, the 55-year-old Cypress, CA, resident has been suffering from Fibromyalgia, which forced a premature end to his 30-year career as a racer and mechanic. Almost. Now a board member for the National Fibromyalgia Association, Randy has returned to racing to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia, and let other patients know that they are not alone.
The son of a mechanic, Randy’s brothers Jerry and Harold took him to a race track in Riverside when he was a young boy, and occasionally let him race their flathead Ford. By the time he was 17, he was drag racing regularly on a car his brother had built. In 1969, Randy, Jerry and Harold opened Brothers 3 Auto Repair.
Around 2000, Randy started coming down with sinus infections, colds, and fevers that he couldn’t shake, despite being in very good shape. Randy recalls that he was very active, working out four times a week, and bowling and playing golf as often as he could. Doctors gave him antibiotics, but nothing seemed to help. “It was like something was slowly eating me up inside,” he recalls. “I felt like I was slowly dying.” Randy was also experiencing severe headaches, and since his father had suffered a brain aneurysm and stroke, Randy wanted to rule that out.
“I was very frustrated to be so sick, especially when the doctors were saying nothing was wrong.” Randy eventually had to quit working at the garage. Not only was he often too fatigued, but even being around the fumes made him sick. Eventually, in 2001, Randy was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
On one hand, Randy recalls, it was a relief to put a name on the disease that was taking such a toll on his physical and mental well-being. Randy’s ever-supportive wife, Janis, spearheaded the research efforts, and helped get him “involved in figuring out what was going on.” But, he says, “It was an even bigger relief when I found a support group, knowing that I am not alone in a lot of the weird things I go through. I’m usually the only guy at meetings, but they make me feel really welcome.”
Not long after joining a support group in Los Angeles, Randy connected with the National Fibromyalgia Association in Orange, CA. He offered to volunteer for the NFA, and a few weeks later, Randy received a letter from the president of the NFA inviting him to join the Board of Directors. Randy was delighted by the opportunity: “It made me feel like I am still worth something.”
Aside from his physical inability to work, Randy has also been frustrated by the effect Fibromyalgia has had on his relationships. “I’ve lost some friends, because I’m too fatigued to go out with them,” he explains. “They say ‘just get up and do it,’ but they don’t understand that I want to, I just can’t.” Randy especially misses spending time with his eight grandchildren. “It seems like they are always catching colds. One of them is always sick, so if I see them, I usually get sick afterwards. It has taken a lot away from me.”
Since his diagnosis, Randy has been focusing on ways to rebuild his strength. He exercises regularly, and still bowls, although his average has dropped from over 200 to about 165. His golf game has similarly suffered, with his handicap going from 12 to 26.
In 2004 Randy accompanied the Purple Reign team to the Super Chevy Show in Pomona, Calif., to cheer on his brother. Jerry convinced Randy to race another car they had brought to the show. After a practice run, Randy felt confident about his racing abilities, and went on to win two races. Unfortunately, the punishing drag race, combined with extremely hot weather, took its toll on his body. “I came down with shingles, and couldn’t compete in the second day’s heats,” says Randy.
Despite the physical toll, Randy had discovered the racing was a great way to raise awareness about FM, especially among men. Ninety percent of the 10 million FM patients are women, so it can be challenging for men to even admit they have the disease, he says, let alone connect with other men who do.
To prepare for the physical demands of racing, Randy now must focus on taking better care of himself during the long events. “I have to make sure I stay hydrated, eat well, and I try not to do too much between races.” But he seems happier to be racing now than ever. “I’m there to have a good time,” he says, “and that takes the stress off winning.”
In April 2006, Randy returned to Pomona for the 26th Annual Super Chevy Show, this time racing a 1989 Pontiac Firebird Formula with a Chevy engine, sponsored by ProHealth, Inc. (His favorite car, the 1979 Camero Z-28 he built, had an engine blow-out.) Randy won the first race, but lost in the second round. Nonetheless, Randy considered it an absolute success. “Racers are very helpful people,” he explains, and not only did their booth raise $1200 for NFA, Randy also met two racers whose wives have Fibromyalgia.
Whether he is on or off the race track, Randy spends the majority of his time promoting Fibromyalgia awareness. A recent speaking engagement had Randy onstage in front of 180 bikers. At first, he was intimidated, but in the end the room turned out to be ‘full of really nice people. It was quite a pick-me-up.” At one race, Randy connected with racer Mike Blodgett whose wife, Beth, has Lupus. They are coming together for a grudge-match race to bring awareness to both diseases. The Lupus v. Fibromyalgia bracket race is scheduled to take place at the Irwindale Dragstrip on July 20.
Despite the roster of big names and fast cars, Randy’s excitement about the upcoming event has far less to do with the racing than it does with reaching out to Fibromyalgia patients. “What’s really helping people is letting them know that they’re not alone in fighting this illness. They get a glimmer of hope in their eyes.”
To learn more about Randy’s “Purple Reiegn Racing” team – go to www.purplereignracing.net or to contact Randy directly, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .