Living with RA: Rheumatoid Arthritis

At first glance, I look like a normal (whatever the perception of normal is these days) 23 year old woman. I am 5ft 2 and on the chubbier side of a size 8. I enjoy going to university, attending the gym and pole dancing. Most days I look healthy, but I often get asked if I 'have had enough sleep' or 'if I'm feeling lazy' today. The truth is beneath my skin I am riddled with a disease that brings me chronic pain, a high level of fatigue and countless infections. A few weeks ago after over a year of unexplained joint pain and hospital admissions I was finally diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an auto immune disorder that according to NRAS (The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society) affects over 700,000 people in the UK. RA is a degenerative condition that attacks healthy joints and has the potential to cause damage to vital organs and cause severe deformities. The first few weeks of discovering RA is known as the 'window of opportunity' as patients who get treatment early on are most likely to make remission. RA is often difficult to diagnose as symptoms do not always present themselves easily.

My joint pain started off slowly with one of my knees. Since I had an operation the year before, doctors told me that it was most likely to be slight wear and tear of the joint and told me to see how it goes. A few months later I noticed when I waking up, all my joints would crack and little rashes started appearing on my feet, wrists and elbows. Over the year the pain got worse and some days it would be hard to move.  The fatigue slowly started creeping in and some days I would be getting over 12 hours sleep and still be tired. My parents would wake me up just to see if I was okay, I could have probably slept a lot longer. Having been to the doctors again, I was then diagnosed with anemia and put on iron tablets. It took nearly a year for my iron to reach an adequate level and the pain was still there. The doctors told me this was all down to my anemia and it would eventually go away.I kept returning to the doctors only to be asked questions 'are you depressed?' or to be told 'it's normal for teenage girls to get pain.' I started getting depressed because the pain was making it harder for me to dance, I couldn't go to the gym like I used to and my university work was suffering. I went to the doctors again for the final time and cried my eyes out, I was finally referred to a rheumatologist. After several weeks of testing and ultrasounds on my joints it was revealed that I have RA and the arthritis is in my wrists, hands, knees and feet. I did not know whether to laugh because I had been right for all this time or to cry at my potential impending doom. There is no cure for RA, but it can be made manageable.

It has been a few weeks since my diagnosis and emotionally I am feeling a lot better. I can now focus on trying to live a relatively normal life. I have decided although it causes me pain, I am going to stick with the gym and dance as in the long run they can both help my joints. As the saying goes 'no pain, no gain.' The fatigue and pain is still there, but in a few weeks time I am starting treatment that will hopefully make my symptoms manageable. I am looking forward to the possibility of having my youthful energy back.

I decided to write this post not for sympathy, but to create awareness of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I could scream at the amount of people that say to me 'it's just a bit of joint pain' - it is so much more than that. I have lost friends because they do not understand what it is like, some of my tutors do not understand how it affects my work, it is often a strain on my relationship and I had to quit working behind the bar because working until 6am is not good for someone with bad joints and constant fatigue. I am determined to not let my diagnosis get the better of me. I am a strong, independent woman and I want the best for my future and my career. RA is a part of me, it does not consume all of me.



  1. I'm fairly certain my boyfriend has inherited this from his mum as he's forever clicking and feeling tired. I'm begging him to go to the doctors but he's being such a typical man about it :/
    Megan x | MeganRoisinn

  2. Hi Jessica
    Thank you for the awareness article
    I really hope you gonna feel better

  3. you're really brave to deal with it in such a positive way. keep up the good work. it's very inspiring ♥

  4. It's so eye opening to read a post like this, I was never aware of this illness before and you are so inspiring!

    If you have a spare minute pretty please could you vote for me as Beat Personal Style Blog Newcomer at Company Magazine's style awards 2014? It would mean so much to me and i would really appreciate it! To vote please follow this link:

    Love Emma xx


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