Running away from RA

In 2010, at the age of 35, I was unexpectedly diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The pain throughout my body was excruciating, particularly in my hands and feet, so I was immediately put on steroids to help stop it.

I then spent most of 2011 at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath, having scans and tests to try and find out the correct mixture of medication and treatment that would make the crippling pain stop and allow me to come off of the steroids and care for my family.

In September 2011, because of my young age and the aggressiveness of the disease, I was put forward for funding for a trial drug called Infliximab through the Primary Care Trust. After numerous tests, scans and medicals I got the call to say that I'd been accepted for funding for one year starting the following week. It meant I'd have to travel to Bath from Taunton every two weeks, then every four weeks and finally every eight weeks and sit with a needle in my arm whilst the pioneering drug was infused into me over three hours.

It was during this time that I eventually decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and turn my life in a positive direction after feeling very depressed and scared for the past year. My husband Matt and two little girls, Lauren and Ella, had been so supportive but were initially a little worried about how my new view on life would affect the disease within my body and whether I was going to make the condition worse.

Straight after I’d had my first infusion of Infliximab, I joined WeightWatchers in order to lose the two stone in weight that I’d gained whilst on the steroids and then I went for a walk.

Now going for a walk around the block may not seem like much to some people, but I'd been unable to move very far for over a year so this was a huge achievement for me. For two months all I could do was walk and then I started power walking before progressing on to jogging. A group of mums had started a Thursday morning jogging group from the school gates and at first I just watched them, until one day I plucked up the courage to ask to join them. They were all immediately accommodating and the Run Leader listened to my concerns and worries about running with RA and supported me right from that first run. I couldn’t run every week as sometimes I’d be too sore or too tired, but the girls at the group always welcomed me back with open arms and words of encouragement. 

As a motivation to keep jogging and working hard at staying fit and healthy, I signed up for the 5km Race for Life in Taunton and managed to jog the whole 5km. I was an emotional wreck as I crossed the finish line with the other 3,000 women who were there! I also became a Gold member with WeightWatchers for hitting my goal weight by losing over two stone in six months.

Ann and OliOn what had been the hottest day of the year so far, I then ran the Bristol 10km Race for Life with my running partner and best friend, Tiff. It was an emotional experience and physically exhausting but I managed to complete the run in 1 hour 5 minutes. Tiff has been beside me since day one of meeting her at the running group and constantly keeps me motivated, even if I am only able to walk because of the restrictions of my RA.

My 18 months of positivity and hard work in learning to run was rewarded on Sunday 21st July when I was selected from a public ballot to take part in the Lottery Anniversary Olympic Park Run, a five mile run around the site of London 2012. From start to finish the whole day was truly amazing and a once in a lifetime experience. My running partner Tiff and good friend Kerry came along to provide support and cheer me along as my husband works abroad and I only had two guest passes so my daughters weren’t able to come.

Sir Chris Hoy started the race and Paula Radcliffe, Victoria Pendleton and Mel C (from the Spice Girls) were on the front line. The run felt very long, very hard and very hot, but all that was forgotten when I entered through the dark tunnel into the bright lights of the stadium at the 300 metre point of the running track. I waved to the 20,000 cheering crowd, including Tiff and Kerry, and somehow found the energy to sprint the 100 metre straight in my best Usain Bolt style! I completed the five mile run in 48 minutes and 42 seconds, which is a personal best.

I'm going to keep running from this disease until my legs physically don't work anymore!

Autumn 2013 by Ann Jones