At the age of 15 I woke one morning to find my feet had seized up. The only way I could describe it at the time was that they felt broken. Within days my hands had locked. The doctors put it down to growing pains but my mother persisted and eventually I was diagnosed at 17 with rheumatoid arthritis. I was studying art at college at the time and was devastated. Since the age of eight all I ever wanted to be was an artist.
For two years I lived with constant pain in my hands. On occasions the pain was so severe that I could not even dress myself. Walking was so painful that I devised a way to walk on the outside on my feet almost balancing to elevate the pain. I lived on painkillers until the rheumatology consultant started me on methotrexate.
My mother requested acupuncture which I had every six weeks to relieve the pain naturally. This, for me, was this best form of pain relief but it was expensive. As my dose of methotrexate was increased I became anxious and confused, one of the side effects of the drug. The good thing about it though is that has prevented my bones from deforming.
In 2009 I moved to Cheltenham to study for a BA in Illustration at the University of Gloucestershire. I knew it was going to be tough but I could not give up on my dream.
The first year I was very ill as my immune system was low, another side effect of methotrexate. At times I would have an extreme flare up in both hands and feet and have to miss a class but I was determined and pushed myself to complete the three year course.
The pain in my right hand prevented me from drawing most of the time but then I started to doodle with my left hand. I created a style using my left hand that has now become my own style. In September I had my first solo exhibition at a local gallery and my work was exhibited for a month. I continue to take commissions and sell my greetings cards.
Every month I still attend hospital for blood tests and continue to take my methotrexate but I won't let this hold me back from my dream.
Winter 2012 by Imogen Elliott