World Arthritis Day 2017

Arthritis, one word that has changed the entire course of my life.

“Arthritis, isn’t that what old people get?”

“Arthritis, oh everyone has a bit of that in their knee”

“Arthritis, we all get that as we get older”

Arthritis, one word with so many misconceptions. Until I was diagnosed in 2014, I thought all those things, I thought it was a minor niggly knee, that became an issue when you were really really old. However, what I understood to be arthritis was actually Osteoarthritis, commonly known as wear and tear arthritis. I had no idea there was a whole other category that were auto-immune disorders and extremely debilitating.

I have Spondyloarthrits, an autoimmune disease. My body is attacking perfectly healthy tendons and joints, causing permanent damage and bone fusing. The hallmark sign of this type of arthritis is the spinal vertebrae start to fuse together, but the impact is widespread and can impact any joint and even the eyes. One of the most upsetting things to find out with autoimmune arthritis is that it takes years (on average 10!) of pain and supposed ‘random injuries’ to get diagnosis and in turn treatment. The only treatments available today focus on reducing the damage and progression of the disease, so early detection is key. This the focus of this year’s World Arthritis Day campaign, Don’t Delay #Connecttoday with your doctor. I might have got my diagnosis when I was 35yo, but looking back at my history my specialist thinks I have had it since early childhood. That’s 30 years of no one suggesting or even considering that I had something more than bad luck and a low pain threshold. 30 years of damage and no treatment. 

I would never have thought I would be sitting here, with such limited movement, huge amounts of fatigue and pain, all before I even hit 40.

It’s now been almost 3 years since I was able to work due to the limitations of this disease. You’d think I must have had a really physical job to be unable to work at 35yo, but no, I was a pen pusher at a corporate desk. The company and team I worked in were very safety conscious. I had a stand / sit desk, we had stand up & walking meetings, used voice recognition software and had ergonomic computer accessories. These got me through a while but in the end, I couldn’t battle the limited function and still perform at work or at home.

I’m still coming to terms with going from an intellectually challenging role to life as a stay at home mum, I am constantly coming up with crazy project ideas and then realising the body is not keeping up with the mind. I have however found a lovely outlet in cooking with my Tefal Cuisine Companion (a super kitchen gadget that chops, stirs, makes dinner and saves pain) and had the pleasure of writing a cookbook for it. Sure, if I didn’t have arthritis I’d have written a series of cookbooks by now, but I do, so I am proud of the one published. (The flip side of course is, if I didn’t have arthritis, I wouldn’t have bought the machine or ever published a book!)

I will continue to focus on what I can do, find ways to challenge the brain and manage the physical limits. I will continue to educate others on how debilitating the disease is and help fellow arthritis warriors find innovative ways to make their everyday life easier.

Arthritis has changed mine and my children’s world. Today, on World Arthritis Day 2017, we recognise those battling the disease and their families whose lives are significantly impacted and urge anyone with symptoms Don’t delay and #connecttoday.

If you would like to more information on arthritis or to contribute to research to help find a cure, please visit Arthritis Australia donate.