I am a 34-year-old mum of three and I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, an auto-immune disorder that effects joints, causing swelling, stiffness, pain and exhaustion. When people hear the word 'arthritis' they often think I mean a sore knee or a dicky hip, like your nanna has in cold weather. RA is a chronic auto-immune disease that affects the whole body. There is no cure. When the Specialist diagnosed me, I thought she had made a mistake. I was 30, had just had my third child and exercised five times a week. When she went on to list all the medications I would need to take and their possible side effects my head swam. My whole life changed in fifteen minutes.
I went from someone who you could never pin down to someone who you could never get up.
The drugs took a long time to work, and the recovery was slow. Joints, stiff from lack of use, could not do much and I slept three to four hours of the day away, waking no less tired, tangled in sweaty bedsheets.
Depression hit hard, life slipped away. My joie de vivre, my marriage, my friends, my hobbies. All I wanted to do was sleep.
It took me two years to stabilise and learn to live with my disease.
I do all I can to stay well. I eat a vegan-based diet. I drink those nasty green juices made in Nutribullets, I take foul tasting supplements, as well as injecting my drugs each week.
About a year ago, I even managed to start running again. People were shocked "I thought you were supposed to have RA" they commented on facebook photos of me holding a medal, covered in mud from a Warrior Run.
I do have RA and I always will. It will reduce my life-span by up to 12 years, according to theRheumatoidArthritis Society (NRAS). I have a doubled risk of heart-disease. The drugs I am on attack my immune system, which is already attacking itself. This puts great strain on my heart, and I catch everything going.
I will be on these drugs for the rest of my life.
This week I came out of remission. People have been shocked to see crutches in place of my running gear on the school run. “But you were dancing at a kid's party two days ago? I can't believe it”, then after a pause, "probably all that running you've been doing."
I've learned a couple of things during my illness. I will dance at another kid's party again soon, I will run another race, and I don't need people to believe I am sick.
Odd as it may sound, I'm grateful for my disease. It has made me appreciate my health on good days, and find strength in pain on the bad ones.
I have seen the milk of human kindness, and heard the ignorant opinions of misinformed nay-sayers and those wanting to make money out of me with 'hocus-pocus' remedies.
If one more person tells me Reiki cured them, I'll take them out with my walking stick...