READER REPORT:

'I was diagnosed with arthritis at 12'

BECCA CROWE
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2016
Arthritis
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"Being a kid, having arthritis was quite hard as my peers didn't understand or believe me. I had to stop sports and spending time with friends."

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I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when I was 12 years old. I'm now almost 25.

Before I was diagnosed I was extremely healthy and active, so I thought my symptoms were from sport. But then it became obvious something was wrong when almost every joint in my body swelled up and I was unable to move.

Being a kid it was quite hard because others my age didn't understand or believe me until I was actually hospitalised. I didn't look sick on the outside and arthritis is something that only old people get, right?

Arthritis stopped me from playing sports and spending time with friends. I trialled on many different medications, most of which worked for a while, but then would lose their effect.

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My early days of high school were horrible as I had to do things differently, like catch a lift instead of taking the stairs and use a laptop instead of writing. It was hard being different and I was often teased when I tried to participate in activities that were "normal" because everyone knew I had arthritis. After changing to a more understanding high school, everything was fine and I was relatively symptom-free.

It wasn't until I was about 20 that I found what I thought was the right drug for me. I was living a normal, almost symptom-free life, but unfortunately I learned the damage had been done and I needed both my hips replaced. A side effect of the arthritis medication is a lowered immune system and both of my hips had severe infections in them and I had lots more operations to wash the infection out.

Because of the side effects I had to stop taking the arthritis medication and it was replaced with high-dose corticosteroids. As the arthritis medication wore off my symptoms returned.

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Luckily I have now been infection free for a while, so I'm allowed to start a new medication, but I will have to be careful I don't pick up any infections again.

Without making it seem like there is no hope for others like me, living with arthritis is horrible.

If your arthritis is managed well, I'd encourage people to do as much as they can for themselves and continue to exercise - don't take it for granted!

When things aren't going well it's all about just getting through the day. Sometimes I wake up three hours before I have to get up and start doing stretches or sit in a warm shower just to help me function for the day

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It's not just about joint pain and swelling as on bad days it makes you feel like you have a hangover.

Having this condition inspired me to become a registered nurse, which is a great working environment and colleagues mostly understand what I'm going through, but I come across a lot of people who take their health for granted and it's hard not to project my feelings about this onto them.

Managing arthritis isn't just about taking pills or "something that my nana took and it cured her"; it's a whole lifestyle change. You need to eat well, exercise within reason and get enough sleep. Even a small imbalance of these things can set off a flare, meaning your symptoms worsen.

At the end of the day you've got no choice but to keep going; you just need to change the way you do things to fit in with your condition and have an attitude that "things could be a lot worse".


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