This girl can by Sara Warren
Getting the best out of life with RA
I am 38 years old and I have had RA for over 5 years. I remember the day it started in October 2011; I went for a run and the next day the ball of my foot was hurting. It didn’t improve and I remember thinking that I surely can’t have hurt my foot from a run. Over the following weeks my other foot started to hurt and by January 2012 my hands were swollen and stiff. I couldn’t bend my thumbs at all. It progressed quite quickly and by the Summer of 2012 I couldn’t really use my hands at all, I couldn’t lift my arms and I struggled to walk as my feet were so painful. I didn’t have to wait for a referral to rheumatology since I was already under their care having had reactive arthritis in my knees several years earlier after contracting mumps. I managed to get an appointment with the rheumatologist early in 2012 and initially I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and prescribed pregabalin for three months and then gabapentin for three months. Neither of them worked. Throughout this time my husband was so supportive, he helped me as much as possible and since I was unable to do anything in the house, he would do all the chores. I was still in work although I was struggling. I am a maths teacher in a secondary school, quite a demanding job which was making me very tired. My head teacher and colleagues couldn’t have been more supportive. My colleagues would carry things for me and help me any way they could. Even the pupils would help out; I couldn’t take a lid off a pen for example. In July of 2012 my husband came to an appointment with me as I was getting progressively worse and in constant pain. The rheumatologist decided to do MRI scans. I spent over two hours having 8 scans on my hands and feet. A few days later a rheumatology nurse called and said I needed to start methotrexate immediately and my new diagnosis was RA. The MTX made my shoulders and neck better but my hands and feet were still very sore and swollen.
In July 2013 I was asked if I would participate in a clinical trial. I agreed as there was no placebo, I would either be given cimzia or humira. The trial was to see if cimzia worked more quickly so I would definitely be given one of the anti-TNF drugs. I didn’t know which drug I was on for 3 months but I started to feel improvement after the first month of being on the drug. I was actually being given cimzia and I was part of the trial for 2 years. To me it was like a miracle drug, my DAS when I started the trial was 7.5 and at the end of the study was under 0.5. I have continued to take the cimzia and have now been taking it for nearly 4 years. I decided to do things that I couldn’t have done before. I joined a rowing club locally and have competed in races in the Northwest. I have always loved water and I really enjoyed learning this new sport and making new friends. I also now have a dog and go on long walks every weekend. I live in the Wirral so we often drive to North Wales to go walking – although my dog’s maximum is about 6 miles! I enjoy doing things now ‘because I can’. On a recent holiday my husband and I went canyoning and on segways and we go out cycling often (with the dog in her trailer). We also enjoy canoeing in the summer.
I don’t have any worry about telling people about my condition; I often find they don’t understand about autoimmune conditions and if they are interested then I am happy to explain. My family, husband and my colleagues have all been so supportive, I feel very lucky to have had so many people willing to help.