Gillian

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  • Location London
  • Type of Arthritis Osteoarthritis, cervical spondylosis

It came completely out of the blue. It was the end of the Easter term and I had been working full time. Over the break I started to get pain in my shoulders, which eventually travelled down my arms and into my back, and paracetamol didn’t help. After a trip to my GP, I had a referral to a physiotherapist, but there was still no let-up in the pain and my symptoms were getting worse, so she sent me for an MRI.

One month later I was told I had arthritis in my neck, causing pressure on my spinal nerve and cord.  I was asked if I’d had a trauma or an accident, as the symptoms were so bad, I hadn’t. I was in shock and was told there was no point signing me off work as it wouldn’t go away. It was quite a lot to take in but my GP was fantastic.

Not long after, I started taking Diclofenac and Co-codamol, which helped to relieve the pain to some extent – I was able to keep going at least. Work were also terrific. I was able to work reduced hours and was also referred to occupational health who gave me some great tips and an ergonomic chair. It never really occurred to me to stop working, but there were stressful elements which were often challenging. I work with vulnerable children, so yes, at times it was really tough trying to keep on top things. In the end HR caught up with me; they weren’t insured to cover me so I was forced to take time off.

That’s when I found out I needed surgery to stop my arthritis from deteriorating, which meant a further six months off work. It was around about this time that I joined Arthritis Care’s Online Community which was just so helpful. I felt really unsure to start with, as I’d never joined anything like that before. It was just brilliant to have reassurance, encouragement and support from people who understood how I felt, and the anonymity made it even easier. 

Since then I’ve changed job roles, which was hard to say the least as I’d done the same job for 25 years before that. I also had to give up hobbies - quilting and sewing. I had to give up being in the choir as the surgery on my throat affected my voice. I’ve had to give up gardening and DIY too. It’s really impacted on most things in my life, including the clothes I wear. My marriage broke up because my husband just couldn’t cope. He would be scared to touch me in case I broke. Gradually he just stayed away more and more.

On the positive side, although I’ve had a couple of friends who have drifted away, I also have really good friends who I can count on at any time. My daughter who is 24 is terrific and such a good source of emotional support.

I’m now crafting again, and although I’ve had to change the type of crafts I do, it’s still enjoyable. I’ve found a local Arthritis Care group and it’s been great.

I have to wear a splint on my right wrist but I want to keep exercising my fingers. It’s something I enjoy but I have to be careful otherwise if I do too much I end up paying for it. If it wasn’t for arthritis I wouldn’t have found some of these hobbies.

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