How long have you lived with RA?
I was diagnosed at the age of 21, three years December 2011.
What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with RA?
The first time I was told I had RA was a major shock to me, I thought I was too young and I knew so little about it. Find out as much info as possible and ask lots of questions.
Do you use any mobility aids?
I mainly use the jar opener things and grip aids.
How has living with RA helped to improve your life?
This question really made me think, I’ve had a tough time with RA, I guess its made me change my life style a bit, I eat a lot healthier now then I used to, I don’t drink or smoke.
Do you have any visible signs of RA?
The main visible signs of my RA are my hands, they are constantly in flare mode and are getting more deformed as the years go by. My knees, shoulders and ankles also flare up often.
Can you please describe some of your favorite coping strategies for living with RA?
I watch a lot of comedy and lighten situations with a joke, I detach myself from things sometimes, music helps me to zone out of life.
Can you please describe your current medical (traditional and alternative) treatments?
I often look at my medications and remember back to a time when I didn’t even take pain killers for a headache, I had a pretty high pain threshold until the RA, now it’s different. Currently I’m on biologics- Rituximab (on infliximab before), also take methotrexate, alendronic acid, folic acid, prednisolone, sulfasalazine, lansoprazole and domperidone.
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to share?
RA has changed every aspect of my life, I found it really difficult to cope in the early days before the diagnosis, I was so ill, a physical and emotional wreck, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I was in so much pain and lost so much weight, I went down to 6 and a half stone and was totally unable to cope. What made it worse was that I was in my final year of an arts degree, miles away from home, trying to look after myself whilst having to cope with the stress of a tonne of work, deadlines and putting together an exhibition. Those days were hell for me and when I think back I’m amazed I managed to finish university and get my degree, I was so close to giving up but what kept me going was my amazing boyfriend, the love and support of my fantastic parents and the expert care of the Rheumatology Team at the norfolk and norwich hospital. I love England and I love the NHS, it is the best care in the world and means I don’t have to worry about the cost of my RA. The drugs although many, allow me to work full time and give me hope for the future, my goal is to go freelance with my photography and be able to work for myself.