Just under a year ago I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthirtis, it was 2 days before my 24th birthday. A lot of people have told me, "But you're too young to have arthritis, isn't that an old persons disease?". Arthritis doesn't have an age requirement.
I was right in the middle of working towards my PhD when the first symptoms started - some pain in my feet and a little bit of stiffness upon waking. I didn't think much of it at first. About 2 weeks after the symptoms started, I woke up one morning and couldn't walk. The pain in my feet and my knees was so excruciating that I literally could not move. I was crawling on the floor, grabbing at the walls trying everything to get it to go away. I just kept trying to move until the stiffness loosened up,
After awhile and with some help from my boyfriend, Alex, I was able to get myself to school. I was in denial that anything was wrong, but on the suggestion of several people I went to the Doctor. I was sent immediately for blood work. When my results came back I was called by the doctor's office to come back in. They told me I had high levels of inflammation, markers for lupus and for rheumatoid factor. The doctor then refered me to a rheumatologist, but the wait was going to be 4-6 months. He started me on a high dose pain killer that I was supposed to take every 12 hours to help mask the pain until the rheumatologist could see me.
Everyday the pain got worse. I couldn't drive anymore, because I couldn't turn the steering wheel. I couldn't wash my hair, or brush my teeth because I couldn't turn the tap on. I couldn't dress myself because my hands were too stiff to get my pants on. I couldn't open containers or open doors. I had a hard time eating because I started getting really bad pain in my jaw. So how did I get through each day?...
My boyfriend would wash my hair while I sat over the edge of the tub, he would help dress me every morning and put my Pjs on everynight. He would carry me to bed every night because by the end of the dayI had no energy left to move. I would wake up everynight screaming because I would get excruciating leg cramps that would last for 30 minutes+. I had to write everything down, because I was in such a fog I couldn't remember anything.
My symptoms were getting worse by the day. They rushed my Rheumatology appointment to the beginning of June instead of making me wait until September. I had some more testing done by the Rheumatologist and then 2 weeks later was diagnosed. I was started on Methotrexate and given a shot of cortisone. The joint pain and swelling started going away, but then I started to have really bad side effects from the drug. My hair started falling out, I lost a significant amount of weight, and felt sick to my stomach. It started to damage my liver and my kidneys. I was at the point where I felt so terrible that I wanted to die.
I went off on a medical leave from school, they stopped the drug and finally, my body was able to rest. My liver recovered, my hair stopped falling out and I started putting weight back on. But, then the joint pain came back. So I was started on another drug. 11 months since the symptoms first started, I finally got into remission from my flare up. 11 months of pain. 11 months of fighting.
I decided I wanted to share my story, as reading blog posts and finding an online community is what helped keep my afloat during this past year. I want to walk for arthritis. I want to walk for everyone who can't because of arthirtis.
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