By Anne Marie Gannon
When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) 17 years ago, I didn’t know where to turn or what to do. I had been feeling a lot of pain and fatigue, and I found that I wasn’t able to use my hands properly.
I went to my doctor and initially they told me that it was most likely due to depression, but I kept getting worse to the point that I couldn’t even walk up or down the stairs. At one point the inflammation was so severe that the tendons in my thumb snapped. I was in unbearable pain and I felt like I was being crucified.
The pain and inflammation spread from my fingers and hands to my knees and shoulders. I felt like was walking on nails at times and I thought to myself that there was no way that this could just be due to feeling down or depressed.
Eventually my GP referred me to a rheumatologist and following tests I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. By that time my shoulder was giving me a lot of trouble and x-rays showed that the RA had practically destroyed the entire joint, boiling it up and breaking it down, and it had to be replaced.
I started on biologic treatments and that made a difference to me for a while. But rheumatoid arthritis is a degenerative, progressive disease that gets worse rather than better, and the newer drugs tend to slow it down rather than completely cure it.
As well as the physical effects it also had a major impact on me mentally and emotionally. I stopped socialising with friends and my mood was very low. I didn’t know where to turn and found that nobody really understood what I was going through, not even family.
It was at that point that I saw an ad for Arthritis Ireland and decided to give them a call. I spoke to a woman on the phone who was very reassuring. It was a great comfort to me to discover that these feelings were normal for someone with arthritis and that I wasn’t alone.
From that phone call I signed up to take a ‘Living Well with Arthritis’ self-management course with Arthritis Ireland. There I learned not only about the impact arthritis has on every part of your life, but also the things that you can do to manage it, such as pain management techniques, creating weekly plans and other problem solving skills.
This course made a massive difference to my life and how I thought about RA. It made me realise that there were lots of things I can do to help myself and, while I still have bad days, I now know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
More and more people are being diagnosed with arthritis all the time and feeling, like I did, alone and helpless. These Arthritis Ireland courses change that perception and people begin to realise that there is something that they can do.
Please ensure that people continue to see the life-changing benefit of these courses by making a donation today by clicking the button below.