How I got here

and why I needed to make my everyday life easier

Karen Shine, Queenstown
Karen Shine, Queenstown

In October 2014 I was given the diagnosis of Spondyloarthritis. Having never heard of this disease I went home and researched away, mainly on and I knew about Osteoarthritis, the “wear and tear” type most of us get as we get older (Can you hear me screaming at the computer “I’m in my 30s!” ?). I’ve an aunt with Rheumatoid arthritis and was aware she had sore, swollen hands that had meant she’d been struggling to open jars for many years. I was not however aware of just how close to impossible and painful it was to open a jar until I couldn’t do it.

I’m no doctor, but… my take on Spondyloarthritis is it refers to a group of related conditions, where the joints, ligaments and tendons (where they attach) get damaged by you body’s defective immune system (auto immune disease). Instead of my immune system going after the bad bugs and killing flu and infection, it’s mistaken the healthy parts of me for the enemy. The usual first attack site is your lower back / pelvic joints where the sacroiliac (SI) joints begin to fuse from abnormal bone growth. As the disease progresses the whole spine can become involved and eventually lead to a fully fused spine. Meanwhile the same can be going on in every other joint in the body. For me, it’s my hands and wrists that are constantly painful, swollen and simply “not functioning”, in addition to the progressive fusing of my SI joints. There is no cure for spondyloarthritis. The only thing you can do is “turn down” your immune system, so it can’t do as much damage. Of course that means it can’t do as much good either, less hunting down and defending against the flu and more serious illnesses. I’ll leave that for another post. (Read about my Life with Spondyloarhritis)

Having the diagnosis was a huge relief, it explained many seemingly random and unusual conditions I’d had since I was a child. It allowed me to understand the future, focus on it and make the most of what I had. At the centre of what I had was two wonderful children that needed a mum. I could have slept all day, but they had to get to school. I could have sat on the sofa and become isolated from the world, but they made me go out and play. I could have eaten ready meals and junk, but I needed to nourish them and teach them healthy habits. It was this desire that led me to my passion of 2015, how to cook healthy food from scratch, whilst following medical advice to pace my energy, not stand for too long, and avoid using my hands!

Read how I acheived this in my post “You need a thermal cooker” and how in August 2016 I went on to release my first cookbook, Shine with your Cuisine Companion, The Essential Guide.