Sometimes unforeseen opportunities emerge from the remnants of life’s challenges, writes Harprit Gill
Pain, a word that means different things to different individuals. For me, pain has followed me on my journey for several years, in various forms. It started one morning in February 1997, when I woke up with severe swelling and stiffness in my left elbow. With a three year old toddler and a four-month-old baby in tow, there was no time to nurse or rest my arm. For a few months I suffered in silence, hoping it would just go away, but a sudden attack of fever, noticeable weight loss and general un-wellness had clasped me close. When even the strongest painkillers did not ease the symptoms, I sensed it was the start of something more serious and I needed medical help.
Thankfully, I received invaluable support from my GP who immediately referred me to a fantastic specialist. Within one week I had had all the necessary tests and scans and was invited back for a consultation, where I was diagnosed with seropositive rheumatoid arthritis.
A little bit about my diagnosis
My immediate reaction was, “Arthritis? That’s a condition the elderly usually suffer from, not a 26 year old woman, right?”
Wrong! Arthritis doesn’t wait for you to mature, it can grab you at any stage of your life, but especially when you are vulnerable.
The consultant carried out an assessment by asking lots of questions. I guess his purpose was to provide some justification to why I have rheumatoid arthritis at this stage in my life. Apparently, a shock to my body had resulted in my immune system being confused, and instead of protecting my body from disease and infection it was attacking the connective tissue around my joints.
With on-going research presenting better medication all the time, people with rheumatoid arthritis can have a better quality of life today than ever before. I have good medical support across both the NHS and private sector. I see the rheumatologist every six months and the specialist nurse monitors me every three months. I have been on various treatment plans, all of which have contributed in a positive way to bring me to where I am today.
I have been on sulfasalazine, indomethacin, methotrexate and prednisolone. The anti-TNF HUMIRA drug didn’t go down too well with me, but I have been on etanercept alone since 2009, and it has controlled the disease and symptoms well. However, I would be lying if I said I don’t reach for ibuprofen and paracetamol for help.
I have learned that you can keep going for a lot longer than you think you can. Although over the years the disease has left me slightly compromised with severe damage to my right ankle and right shoulder, thankfully, I have had no replacements yet.
I managed to continue working in the family business and was extremely blessed to fall pregnant again with my third child whilst undergoing treatment.
But when I lost my husband in 2013, everything in my life changed dramatically. I was forced to close down the family business within a couple of years. Despite this tragic episode, giving up was not a choice. My children needed me to be stronger than ever. If I crumbled, we would have lost everything we had built together. I had to force myself to carry on a life for us, without him.
Sometimes unforeseen opportunities emerge from the remnants of life’s challenges, and you can transform tough times into great growth and success.
For me, my longstanding passion for writing and the desperate need for change brought me to a new station in both my working and home life. With much encouragement from family and my inner strength, I have now taken the first steps towards fulfilling my writing career as a freelance copywriter.
There is no doubt that this debilitating disease can leave you in some very low places, emotionally, mentally and physically. Staying active, eating well and remaining positive are as important to long-term wellbeing as taking your daily dose of medication.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or talk about your pain and hardship with those around you. Although your family and friends cannot ease or even share your suffering, they can provide immense strength and encouragement and you will never feel alone.
Harprit Gill is available for commission, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Click here if you would like to submit your story to Arthritis Digest.
For more in-depth features, interviews and information, subscribe to Arthritis Digest magazine, a popular title that’s published six times a year. Click here for the digital version or tel 0845 643 8470 to order your had copy. You’ll know what your doctor is talking about, what new drugs are in the pipeline and be up to date on helpful products.