- Location London
- Type of Arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis
- Age at Diagnosis 27
I was 27, had two young children (both in nappies) and worked as a teacher. The GP thought I had RSI, until tests came back positive for rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
It took three years to get a combination of drugs that worked for me. I had RA in both hands, elbows and feet. To climb the stairs, I had to slide up on my bottom. I had crippling fatigue and needed to sleep during the day, which meant my children had to play on the floor. No one understood. There were no support groups and no help available.
Too young for arthritis
People said I was ‘too young’ to have arthritis. The occupational health team at my workplace was useless; they suggested marking fewer books a day. The school didn’t have the time or money to accommodate people with conditions like me, which meant I had to give up my job as a teacher.
After quitting my job, I researched how to help myself through diet and lifestyle. I was determined to reduce the amount of drugs I needed to take, as I knew how toxic they were, and didn’t want to be taking them for the rest of my life.
Giving up teaching was a really hard decision. I had to sacrifice a good job that I had always wanted to do, but it no longer worked for me. I was paid well and although I now work in an office, I could probably earn more as a supply teacher two days a week than I do now as a full-time office worker. But things have changed and being a teacher doesn’t suit me any more – I stopped enjoying it, as it was far too stressful.
Stress affects people in so many ways and stopping teaching has definitely helped me to manage my condition. I now work in the family window cleaning business, which is a lot more relaxed. My work-life balance is a lot better since changing jobs.
I can do more now (since being in remission) than I used to. I’ve got my life back - I can walk all day and spend the day out with my children. I’m also completely pain-free - I’ve been signed off by the rheumatologist and don’t use any medication. I have been in remission since December 2015, and have been drug-free since the end of 2014, as a result of my diet and lifestyle changes.
Setting up a group
I set up the Enfield Support Group in August 2016, because I know how helpful it would have been in the early stages of the condition just to have someone, or a group of people, who understood. I try to theme each meeting. One lady hadn’t left her house for six months due to depression related to her condition, and was absolutely over the moon to have other people to talk to.
Just hearing that it’s helping someone is great. Hopefully more and more people will hear about the group and come along.