Young arthritis sufferer pushing for better understanding of 'invisible, incurable disease'

Walthew ran a charity quiz night to help raise money for Arthritis NZ.
SIMON O'CONNOR/Fairfax NZ

Walthew ran a charity quiz night to help raise money for Arthritis NZ.

Rachael Walthew's goal is to one day ride a bike and jump on a trampoline like she used to. 

The 25-year-old was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis two years ago. 

For the first six months she was resigned to her bed, stiff, exhausted and in pain. She taught her boyfriend how to brush and tie up her hair because her joints had seized at the elbows. 

Rachael Walthew is 25 years old and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.
SIMON O'CONNOR/Fairfax NZ

Rachael Walthew is 25 years old and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.

"I lived upstairs. I couldn't get in and out of my house safely," Walthew said. "It would take me an hour-long round trip to go to the bathroom."

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She said there was a "mourning period" for the abilities she had lost and the limits the auto-immune disease had placed on her.

"It's a process. You've got to go maybe I just can't get on a plane and travel for six weeks because I've got to be back on this date [for treatments]."

After numerous steroid and pain killer cocktails, including periods of having to inject herself with medication, she now gets intravenous drugs administered every month at the Taranaki Base Hospital which "kind of work", Walthew said. 

"I'm still having to manage it [arthritis] every day - I have to pace myself." 

"It's unpredictable. Especially because it can go really really well and then, now you're in bed for two days and you can't move. It sucks, to be honest," she said. 

"One of the things I have learnt is time management. You can't just put everything off until a Saturday because you might not have any energy to do it then." 

On Tuesday, Walthew was doing her bit to help raise awareness of the disease and a bit of money for Arthritis NZ with a quiz night at The Good Home. 

She said arthritis was an "invisible, incurable" disease did and therefore didn't get as much money coming in from public appeals. 

Being younger and in a smaller city meant there wasn't a lot of people Walthew knew with the disease to draw on for support but she was getting involved with Arthritis NZ and its projects when she could, to help people better understand what young sufferers were going through. 

"If I can help to make it a bit easier for them then, why not?" 

 - Stuff

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