26 Nov 2012

NHBPM - Day 26 – Monday, Nov. 26 - Part 1

 - Bonus Prompt: Raise awareness for another condition!

I will be posting two of these today to Raise awareness for two different conditions that people I talk to suffer from.

 Here is Zoe's Story.

"I'm Zoe and when I was 20 years old I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This isn't like the 'arthritis' elderly people get, this is a disease where your body's immune system can no longer recognise what is part of the body and begins attacking itself. It mainly affects joints and their linings, as well as other tissues like the heart, lungs and eyes.

The symptoms I first began getting were painful ankles, wrists and elbows with swelling and overwhelming fatigue. I was sent from doctor to doctor who had no idea why this 20 year old girl was suddenly getting these symptoms and in so much pain she could barely walk! It was terrifying. When I finally reached a rheumatologist, he explained these are the most common symptoms of RA. I began treatment which included many different medications to help control symptoms and slow down the disease process. If the disease process isn't slowed down, potentially disabling joint deformities can form.

The main medication I'm on at the moment is prednisolone (a steroid), naproxen (an anti-inflammatory) and methotrexate (a DMARD), as well as strong painkillers. Steroids are usually great at controlling symptoms, but you just have to google them to see the many horrible side effects. The ones I deal with most are weight gain, always being warm and my bone density is decreased. As a young person with RA, my confidence is already knocked because I can no longer act like I used to, go out and have fun with my friends or perform well at uni. This is just worsened by losing any self esteem I had with the prednisolone weight gain.

However, the medication which impacts my life the most is methotrexate. DMARD means 'disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug'- it's exactly that, it's meant to slow down the disease process because it's a low dose chemotherapy drug which suppresses your immune system. So far I have had little relief with this drug and just experienced many of the side effects- for two days after the dose (you take it once a week) I feel exhausted, nauseous, occasionally vomit and I have little brain power and get easily confused. It also makes me very susceptible to illness- in the summer, a cold I caught quickly turned into bronchitis and nearly pneumonia.

So not only is my entire life being taken over by RA, it is also taken over by the medication and their side effects. The aim is to get into 'remission', although the likelihood of this is unknown. RA will always be a part of my life, I will always be on these tough medications and I will always have the fear of what it is doing to my body.

RA is a scary disease, especially as a young person with it. I can no longer act like a normal 21 year old. If I'm actually well enough to go out for the day, I have to have a day or two afterwards to recover. Despite this, and the fear of the future, I am determined to live my life to the full- as much as my body lets me. Yes I have days where I cry from the pain, but I also have days where it's bearable enough to see family or friends, or go to the movies, or take a walk in the park. I appreciate these days so much more since my diagnosis, I would much rather not have it, but there are always positives to come from every situation."

You can check out Zoe's blog here.
Thank you for reading
And Thank you to Zoe for sharing her Story
Take care

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