Nicola takes on the Great North Run in aid of NRAS

I’ve always considered myself to be an active and healthy person, but shortly after giving birth to my daughter in 2006, I awoke with the most excruciating pain in my shoulder. It was as if a red hot poker was being twisted inside me. After a day of taking painkillers, the agony eventually subsided as quickly as it had arrived. Sadly, by the next morning, the same pain had reappeared in my other shoulder, although once again it faded just as quickly.

Nicola CoyneI didn’t experience this type of pain again for almost a year but then it suddenly it appeared in my wrists and thumb joints, accompanied by redness and inflammation. Multiple visits to A&E came up with no clear diagnosis until eventually I was given the news I feared – a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. At first I didn’t quite understand the severity of what I had been told. At 38, with four children, it was unimaginable that I would now have to live with this disease for the rest of my life. I tried to imagine how I would explain it to my family but it was difficult. Everyone understands what you mean when you use the word ‘cancer’, very few people understand RA and the impact it can have on daily life.

After numerous visits to my consultant, and many tests later, I was eventually prescribed methotrexate but this came with its own complications. After a year, and other treatments too, including leflunomide (no alcohol allowed when on this drug) things seemed to settle down.  I was once again able to drive my children to school, do the weekly shop and lead as normal a life as possible. Unfortunately, while on a holiday to France, the pain and inflammation in my joints began to return – my RA had come back.

After six months of monitoring and having periodic DAS (disease activity score) tests carried out, I was given steroid injections to help ease the pain. During this time I put on three stone and became far less mobile. Finally, in January 2011, I became eligible for anti-TNF treatment and was started on Enbrel – what I would describe as my wonder drug!

From this point on I haven’t looked back!

With my life back on track I started exercising – my husband bought me some running trainers for Christmas and my new year resolution for 2012 was to run the Preston Guild Half Marathon. The weight soon dropped off as training progressed and the experience of running my first race, a distance of 5km, was amazing. Quickly I progressed to 10k and finally I ran a half marathon. It was pouring with rain but I was pain free and ready for the challenge!

I have now decided to take on the challenge of the Great North Run on the 15th September in aid of NRAS.  Looking back to the early, dark days of my disease I never imagined being able to run up the stairs, let alone run over 13 miles. Since then, my attitude has changed, as has my figure and my wardrobe!

Spring 2013 by Nicola Coyne