How to (unofficially) survive a sinus infection

How to (unofficially) survive a sinus infection

If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll probably have seen that I have a severe sinus infection.

It first occurred just after I started my cosentyx, and a quick read of the side effects shows you that sinusitis is pretty high up the list of things. Why are side effects never things like beautiful glowing skin or impossibly soft and shiny hair?

I’ve had sinusitis for over six months now. It has been unrelenting. Every time I think it’s getting better, it attacks me again with a vengeance.

I first saw a GP about it a few days after Christmas. As soon as I uttered the words “I’m on cosentyx” the tone of the appointment change. A quick check of cosentyx in the medical version of google and I’m told it’s a side effect. Get on with it. Just one of these things I’ll have to put up with. Trying to explain to her that I have been getting on with it but I’m here because I can take no more. Only to leave with no advice, no sympathy, nothing.

I continued to just get on with it as best I could.

But barely a day went by when I didn’t feel the symptoms. Painful forehead. Painful cheeks. Blocked nose. Headache. Earache. Sore throat. Sniffly. Runny nose. Sore nose. I knew it wasn’t a cold because even when auto immune supressed like I am, colds do get better. This wasn’t ever getting better. It was only getting worse.

2 days ago I was enjoying a nice weekend at home with my boyfriend, spending some time on the sofa slobbing out watching the World Cup. Out of nowhere, and I mean out of nowhere, I became so run down. All of the symptoms I listed above came on in seconds. I knew at this point I had to go back to my doctor and was lucky enough yesterday to get a same day appointment.

Being the pessimist that I am, I was expecting the doctor to fob me off like I have been all of the other times. How wrong I was. A quick inspection confirmed that I have been suffering with a severe sinus infection that I shouldn’t expect to clear for about 6 weeks. I returned to work after the appointment but the symptoms got the better of me and I headed home to rest, which is where I still am now. Feeling that usual guilt of wondering what colleagues think of me being off again, trying to rationalise it all with the knowledge that I am unwell and that I really do need the rest.

I woke up this morning with the worst skin and dry chapped lips due to the constant blowing of my nose. I described myself to a friend earlier as both feeling and looking like ‘day old bread’. Can’t wait to get better and feel better and look better. It doesn’t just happen by itself however.

So. I’ve decided to share with you my personal guide to dealing with a sinus infection.

Let’s get steaming

  • Great for both trying to breathe again and for sorting out horrible lizard skin. I use a toner tab from Lush and a few drops of eucalyptus oil. Add to a bowl, mix with a kettle full of water that has been boiled and voila. Don’t stick your head to close to the water, giving yourself a steam burn at this point really would be the worst. Head over bowl, towel over head, and breathhhhhe. I steam my face for about 20 mins and follow with a good moisturiser. Hot baths are also great. I’ve had 2 so far today and will have one shortly before I go to bed. Again, I add a few drops of the eucalyptus oil to the bath.
  • Nasal sprays are a godsend. You will fall in love with one. And as tempting as it is to stick it up your nose 100 times a day every day for as long as you live, this is not recommended. Don’t use one for more than a week. This is definitely a case of something where I should practice what I preach. It’s not my fault it feels so damn good! Sterimar is a great nasal spray and I know a lot of fellow PsA sufferers swear by the stuff.

 

Softly Softly

  • I love love love using Eucerin Replenishing Face Cream with 5% urea. This one is the ‘night’ formula which is a lot thicker than the day cream. A little goes a long way. It can leave skin greasy after it’s been applied but this is a small price to pay. (Side note, all Eucerin products with urea in worked wonders for my psoriasis so give it a go)
  • Egyptian Magic Cream. Sure, on the surface, it’s just a tub of very expensive Vaseline. But this is a life saver. I apply to the skin that’s been abused by nose blowing and to sore lips.
  • When everything starts to get better and skin is less sore, Origins Never a Dull Moment exfoliator gets you back to beautiful glowing skin. Plus it’s microbead free so seals and turtles benefit too.

General Points for Survival

  • See a doctor. I was prescribed antibiotics and a strong nasal spray. If you’re on a biologic like I am, check with your doctor if you can take antibiotics. I did not check this. I took my first two antibiotics yesterday, and then that evening took my monthly cosentyx shot as planned. With hindsight, probably not something I should have done. I’m taking antibiotics to fight infection before immediately injecting a drug that heavily reduces my bodies ability to, well, fight infection. Not my finest moment. Hoping that the antibiotics will still do the job BUT YOU MUST CHECK WITH YOUR GP.
  • Lots of rest. Recovery is quicker if you have a cat to keep you company and provide limitless cuddles. Dogs work just as well. My rest right now involves me in my dressing gown, laid out on my sofa, propped up by memory foam cushions and under a comfy blanket. World Cup on TV, cup of tea to hand, endless supply of chocolate buttons.
  • Painkillers. If you need ‘em, take ‘em. Right now my painkiller of choice is co-codamol. My sinus pain is most severe in my forehead and when it flares I want to bash my head against a wall. The co-codamol does a good job at relieving this. I hate people who claim that painkillers are bad. Who preach for you to not take painkillers. These are the same people who claim that things like biologics are poison and natural is best blah blah blah. If you need painkillers, you take them. Don’t listen to fake martyrs. I hate these people. I love tramadol. Life goes on.
  • Lots of water. I am powered by rooibos tea.

 

A bit like florals for spring, I’m sure my survival guide is literally ground breaking. The abused skin around my nose is already getting softer so by the time I intend to face the outside world I hope to be looking fresh and healthy.

If you’ve any advice and tips for how you survive sinusitis and other ailments, then please let me know. I doubt this will be my last bout!

 

Products

Toner Tabs https://uk.lush.com/products/spot-treatment/tea-tree

Eucalyptus Oil https://www.boots.com/botanics-aromatherapy-pure-essential-eucalyptus-oil-10ml-10031672

Eucerin Facial Moisturiser https://www.boots.com/eucerin/eucerin-top-10-favourites/eucerin-dry-skin-replenishing-face-cream-night-urea-with-lactate-50ml-10065361

Egyptian Magic Cream https://www.feelunique.com/p/Egyptian-Magic-All-Purpose-Skin-Cream-118ml?gclid=EAIaIQobChMInuGczLfg2wIVFrcbCh30uwYlEAAYASAAEgLrRPD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

Origins Scrub https://www.origins.co.uk/product/15343/11869/skincare/cleanse/exfoliator/never-a-dull-moment/skin-brightening-face-polisher-with-fruit-extracts

Sterimar Nasal Spray https://www.boots.com/sterimar-stop-and-protect-cold-and-sinus-relief-20ml-10191795

 

 

 

 

 

MIA. My Self Esteem.

 

Self-esteem

[self-i-steem-]

Noun

  1. A realistic respect for or favourable impression of oneself; self-respect.

Has anybody seen my self-esteem?

Last seen around July 2016.

Belonged to a girl about 5’6”, size 8, usually wearing a cute dress, full fringe, lashings of black eyeliner and generally happy looking.

No?

No, I’ve not seen her either. She’s been missing for a while now.

When self-esteem disappears, where does it go? Is it gradual? Or is it there one day and gone the next?

I can pinpoint why mine started to disappeared. It went when my toes started to deform. When toes are bent due to dactylitis, like mine are, shoes don’t fit. Initially I could still wear a variety of flat shoes and boots. Loafers, sneakers, pretty pumps, these kinds of things. Shoes that I would happily wear with dresses. But as my toes started to become worse, I could no longer wear these shoes. A brand-new pair of Adidas Gazelles, bought in April 2016, didn’t fit by the June. My beloved and battered Fred Perry pumps were so tight on my new feet they would bring me to tears. I had no choice but to buy skechers. A brand and a shoe type I wouldn’t have given a second thought about before. But now they were the only thing that would fit (aside from my running trainers, but I was far too much of an emotional wreck initially to wear anything that reminded me of running). So, with black flat chunky skechers, suddenly my style changed.

My vast array of dresses got put to the back of the wardrobe. Why? Because not only was it easier and less painful to wear trousers and not tights (I live in NE Scotland after all, bare legs are for the foolish), I simply didn’t have any shoes to wear with them. Everything I wore suddenly revolved around the same, elasticated pair of black trousers, which I am still wearing today. Shirts for work, sweaters for home. Repeat until the end of time. My style of dress, which I so closely associated with my sense of femininity changed overnight.

All of my shoes and boots that didn’t fit got put in to the attic. I.e., every singly pair. If I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t make me cry. I have on many occasions walked in to a shop and gone to try shoes on. Believing that one pair will fit. Maybe a wide fit pair of pretty ballerinas? A pair of sandals for holiday? The answer every time is no. I have cried in shops more times than I care to admit to. So truly upset that not only do shoes not fit, that the majority of people would have no idea why. That when I say to people how upsetting it is, that they think I’m being petty.

But it wasn’t just how I dressed that changed. My style generally became more relaxed. And with that, so did my approach to personal care. I no longer wore my contact lenses, opting instead to wear my glasses because it meant that I didn’t have to bother wearing make-up and could just hide behind them. I stopped having my fringe cut in, choosing instead just to scrape my hair back every day. All of this coupled with a two-stone weight gain has led me to barely recognising myself anymore. The irony being that I had higher self esteem when I was covered head to toe in psoriasis.

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Same person but two very different people. Just 2 and a bit years apart, but worlds apart. (*must not cry looking at photo 1*)

Why should I make an effort? I wasn’t worth any effort. I’m still not sure how much of me is worth an effort.

Put simply.

My self-esteem became pretty darn low.

But why has my physical appearance had such an impact on my all-round self-esteem? Is it really a reason why I retreat further and further in to my shell with each passing month?

Why is my self-esteem so closely linked to how I look? If I had never had arthritis would I have continued to care for my appearance and I would have still had great self-esteem? Is it as easy as that?

I have my fair share of faults and flaws but I like to think as a person I’m pretty ok. I’m kind (although don’t tell anybody this, I have a reputation to uphold), I’m fairly affable and I like to think I’m the funniest person most people will ever meet.

Yet when I think of my own self-esteem I don’t think of these things, I see only what I perceive as negatives. Shy, reserved, fewer friends than I have unbent toes, a constant feeling of being left behind in life which surely must be my fault. Never feeling good enough, always feeling a burden. One of the biggest problems for me is a constant need for reassurance. I can never do things right. I spend most of my time locked away in my flat, not having the confidence to do anything. On a Monday morning, work colleagues no longer ask what I did at the weekend because they already know the answer.

One of my most favourite people in the entire world has a cripplingly low self-esteem. I have tried on many occasions to tell him that I think he is awesome, but I know it’s not as easy as that. And if it was, why can I not listen to my own advice? Why can we never see ourselves through someone elses eyes?

I have a postcard at home (which will eventually be framed, probably when I get round to it in 45 years time) that says “Love yourself as your cat loves you” and this should be my new mantra because Mo adores me. She loves me when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I haven’t washed my hair for 5 days, when I’m anxious and well, she loves me no matter what. Apart from when I refuse to give her an extra serving of dreamies.

The internet is awash with people advocating ‘self-care’ but how effective is self-care when self-esteem is so low? Especially when self-care varies so much from person to person. The internet is also a reason why people, and probably myself included to some extent, have such issues. I spend a good 90% of my time at work aimlessly scrolling through Instagram, seeing everybody else’s great lives, but we all know of course that this is merely what the person wants you to see.

I have no real conclusion to this entry. It’s still something that I am trying to get my head around. My arthritis has changed so much for me physically and it continues to change me as a person. It continues to challenge who I think I am, to question my own self-worth and happiness, it continues to push me to my limits. Even now, 7 months in to cosentyx, 7 months of living an almost ‘normal’ physical existence, why does my arthritis continue to have such a hold on me?

Please somebody else with chronic illness tell me that this will get better? Or if it doesn’t, please tell me I will be ok.

When did life become so difficult?

But, as always, it’s not all doom and gloom.

I am due, at some point in the future, to have the surgery to straighten my toes. But of the three toes that I desperately need doing, I have so far only been approved for surgery on the one. I am forever hopeful that my surgeon will give the green light to have all of them done at the same time. I won’t know until my final consultation if the operation will allow or prevent me from wearing heels ever again. But I’m honestly ok with not. I wasn’t a prolific wearer of them pre-arthritis, and really, I just want to wear some pretty flats. I never want to wear those black skechers to a wedding (least of all my own) ever again.

In fact, the first thing I’ll do post-surgery?

Burn the shoes.

Number 1 On The Bucket List = COMPLETE

“You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own and you know what you know. You are the one who’ll decide where you’ll go. Well, go forward, go forward. On to glory!”

Last Sunday I fulfilled a life long dream. I ran the London Marathon.

In the run up to the big day I was avoiding a lot of conversation about it. The odd photograph on Instagram here and there, but no writing. I had so many things that I wanted to blog about but I didn’t. Why? Well, firstly, I was very, very scared about what I was going to be putting my body through. This was my first marathon ever, which was scary enough, but add in my arthritis to the mix and I really did feel like I was dicing with death. People don’t tend to know that they have an undiagnosed heart condition until it’s too late after all. But I also didn’t blog because I am always very aware that just because I can do a marathon with arthritis doesn’t mean this is the norm. I suppose part of me didn’t want to be ‘rubbing it in’ peoples faces.

However.

I feel like this might be the longest blog post I ever publish so get the kettle on and settle down.

In The Beginning

This journey begins in the 90s. Little Rebecca, sports mad. A talented school athlete. A lover of watching the marathon. Little Rebecca knew that one day she was going to run the London Marathon.

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I’m sure we all know what happens between then and April 2016. I continued to be sports mad. I would travel the UK and Europe to watch football. I never found a sport I didn’t enjoy. I grew taller. I went to university. I became lazy. I start running. Life becomes very good again. My health improves. I become fit. I lose some much needed weight. My mental health becomes the best it has ever been. My confidence generally is sky high. I fall head over heels in love with running. I run and then one day I can’t walk. I stiffen up. I can’t move. I’m swollen. I’m in pain. Turns out, I have psoriatic arthritis. I sink in to a deep depression of which I can’t see how I will ever get out of it. I can’t even walk from one room to another, let alone run. Life becomes dreadful.

However. I don’t know when I’m beaten.

The Build Up

On the 15th August 2016 I applied for, and was given, the marathon place from Arthritis Research UK. Looking back now with hindsight, what a really really really stupid thing for me to do. This was still 2 weeks before my official diagnosis at hospital, I was medication free and flaring badly. But I clearly had the naïve belief that I would be ok and up and running again one day. I took a charity spot because I knew that I had to run London. There was no other marathon that would do. I didn’t want to enter the ballot and not be successful. I needed to know I would be running. Which was a sensible idea because I haven’t received a ballot spot in the 4 years I’ve applied. Plus, it’s always nice to raise money for charity, and ARUK were a charity who I suddenly and unexpectedly had a very personal connection with.

Come the day of the 2017 marathon I was unable to run and had to defer my place (See here for how I felt that day and also some cracking photos of me in a hat: https://sensibleshoes.blog/2017/04/23/the-london-marathon/ ) I was failing spectacularly on methotrexate. Heavily reliant of diazepam to try and control the pain and spasms I was having in my neck. This was probably the worst month I have ever experienced with arthritis. This would continue until I started sulfasalazine. Which I had such a severe reaction to I was taken off after only 6 days. 3 more months of being in a flare and medication free would follow until October 2017.

Enter cosentyx. The injections worked instantly.

In the November, I would run my first 5k in a very long time around The Kelpies. It would be slow but steady. I would get round the entire course without stopping in 40 minutes. My body felt strong and I had no negative repercussions over the next few weeks. I would boldly declare this the day that the marathon comeback started.

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Only it wasn’t. I wouldn’t run again until February. I would have toe surgery in the January that would prevent me from doing any exercise. I tried to keep moving and so walked 1 mile every lunch break. I still felt quite fit. But fit enough for 26.2 miles? HELL NO. I also didn’t do a lot of running because I am inherently a very lazy person and don’t need an excuse to stay home in my pjs and just read. But mid February I did start going out a few times after work. The odd 3km. Maybe a 6km if I was feeling good. Saving a 10km run for a Sunday.

I combined the running with a lot of walking but I felt ok in the days after. No joint pain, no swellings.

But it wasn’t all good. My longest run was only 6 miles. All of my training runs combined only came to 32 miles. This is 100% not advisable in any way.

The last few weeks have been some of the most difficult of my life, physically and mentally.

My decision to run the marathon was one that truthfully, I didn’t really think through. When I was first diagnosed with arthritis, I was so angry that it had robbed me of my ability to run. To do something that I loved doing. It destroyed me. Pre-arthritis, my body was strong enough and I was fit enough to be working towards a sub 4-hour marathon. I knew that my first marathon would have to be London and I knew that it wouldn’t be my last.

But obviously, we all know what happened.

Overnight, I was left devastated by the fact that my body had given up on me.

Overnight I had become disabled.

Even though I could barely walk, I still believed that one day I would run again. That one day I would run the London Marathon.

With the benefit of hindsight, this would be one of the most naïve moments of my entire life.

Over the last four weeks though, I have struggled with the enormity of what I am about to do. I would cry at any given moment, overcome with fear that I wasn’t ready. That my body wouldn’t get around the course. That somewhat morbidly, I wouldn’t survive. I was quite literally sick with fear. I would sit up all night worried about what would happen. On numerous occasions I decided that I simply wouldn’t bother competing. After one particularly arduous 6 mile run, Jack said to me “I feel like you’re not enjoying running any more. Are you?”

And the answer was no. I wasn’t enjoying it. Every short run was fraught with fear that I was making my body worse, and let’s be honest, I probably was. My left knee was causing me so much pain that I didn’t know what to do. But as I kept reminding myself, I needed to do London. For me. I needed to know that I could still do it. That the arthritis that has so ravaged my body and my life would not win.

I needed closure.

And with that, I promised Jack that I would never run again after the marathon. I feel okay with that.

The pressure continued to build. I developed a very good relationship with the team at Arthritis Research UK and we agreed that they could share my story with the local and national press.

First up came the local paper, the Evening Express:

https://www.eveningexpress.co.uk/fp/news/local/north-east-woman-to-run-london-marathon-after-doctors-told-her-she-may-need-wheelchair/

The day after this was published I went to the local radio station North Sound One to be interviewed:

https://planetradio.co.uk/northsound/local/news/aberdeen-woman-battling-severe-arthritis-taking-on-marathon-challenge-2/

My interview ended up being played on every hourly news bulletin. Work colleagues were asking for autographs. I became very aware that there was a lot of expectation on me to complete the marathon, a lot was riding on me delivering.

Then came The Scottish Sun:

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And so the anxiety grew. I had so many sleepless nights. I would cry repeatedly throughout the day. I lost nearly 10lbs in weight because I was constantly being sick through fear. I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready. My body couldn’t do a marathon. I was going to drop out, I could feel it. I would never live it down.

The week of the marathon arrived. Then came an even bigger blow. My employers, who prior to this had agreed to match my sponsorship, suddenly declared they wouldn’t be making any kind of contribution. I had been quite relaxed about my fundraising until this point because I knew that I would be matched. Now, with a week to go, I was up a creek without a paddle. This is still an issue that I have a great problem with and I’ve escalated the matter up to senior management and will continue to do so until they keep their promise to me.

Oh. Did I mention that London was about to be in the grip of a heatwave?

Friday 20th April 2018

On the Friday, to London JP and I went. Anxious but I felt surprisingly calm. There was to be no going back now. At the airport I learnt that I would be one of fifteen running because they had arthritis. It kept things in perspective about why I was running. I never thought I would have this opportunity. I was now just 48 hours away from it. I was doing it against the odds.

The Expo at the Excel center awaited. The DLR rammed full of other people off to collect their race numbers. Silently sizing everyone else up “I’ll beat him” “I bet she’s fast”. I wonder what people thought when they saw me. Were they sizing me up? Slim, looks fit, bet she’s done this before. But nobody knew of course just what’s going on with my body. And I too didn’t know what everyone else was going through. How many others were there overcoming their own hurdles and personal struggles.

The expo I did not enjoy. I felt like a complete fraud. I can’t run a marathon!! These people are actually running  it. I just want to complete it. People at the stands trying to get me to sign up to various exotic marathons around the world. PLEASE STOP ASKING ME I CAN’T RUN A MARATHON I DON’T BELONG HERE. Forgetting of course, the whole reason why I was there was because of a marathon. I did however see Paula Radcliffe.

Fun fact about me. I am in love with Paula Radcliffe. I met her in Glasgow in October 2015.

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Let’s just take a moment to appreciate how fit and toned my body is here. SIGH. I had just run 10k. I was probably quite sweaty and smelly but she was far too polite to say so. I went up to her and I found myself stroking her arm. Not just a light brush. But caressing her arm. I can’t tell you just how unbelievably lovely she is. So it was a lovely surprise to see her in London and to be so close to her again.

The restraining order has clearly been lifted.

What I did enjoy about the expo though was the shirt printing station. I had known for a while that I was going to have an additional message on the back of my shirt and now was my opportunity. This would turn out to be the best £14 I’ve ever spent on running. Even though they didn’t include the apostrophe I so clearly added.

Something that they don’t tell you about marathons though (and if they do they should bloody shout it louder) is that you will be absolutely SICK of pasta. I was eating so much pasta that I got to a stage where I couldn’t chew it anymore. I was shoveling it in my mouth and it was going nowhere. It was pasta puree, like baby food, just falling out of my mouth. I have never been so attractive.

Saturday 21st April 2018

So came Saturday. The day before Sunday. The day before the marathon. Nerves quite high. But also I felt quite content. The weather was lovely so we decided to go for a walk. After a quick pit stop at the National Gallery to see my favourite painting of all time (FYI, Whistlejacket) we went to my happy place to avoid the marathon pressure. Somewhere that holds so many happy memories for me, Going as a child with my parents and my sister to feed the ducks. To hunt for squirrels. To play and laugh and have fun.

We went to St James Park. AKA THE END OF THE MARATHON. I wasn’t escaping the stress, I was willingly walking right in to it.

More pasta puree was consumed and that nights sleep would be one of the best I had in a while. I didn’t wake numerous times. I fell asleep and I stayed alseep.

Race Day

6am alarm. 2 slices of toast a mouthful of cereal forced down. Everyone at breakfast all there that early for the same reason. We’re all about to undertake 26.2 miles on the streets of London. And just like that, we’re off towards Brixton tube station.

Before I even know what’s going on I’m in Greenwich. Walking along Greenwich High Road, a road I know well, on my way to the park. Suddenly I remember why I love races. We’re all in this together. There’s a great sense of expectation. The sun is shining. JP walks me all the way up to the entrance of the race pens and I realise, I don’t feel scared. I don’t feel nervous. I am excited. I know I can do this. I know at some point later that day I will have done it.

I met up with a lot of fellow Team A runners and there’s a great sense that we really are a team. I’m not the only one running this with arthritis and that’s reassuring. A quick trip to the toilet for a last minute wee and I’m off to my pen. I put in such a slow estimated finish time I’m in the last pen with the fancy dressers. It’s not even 10am yet but it is absolutely scorching. As I do though, I get talking to everyone around me. We all share that same feeling of the unknown, not knowing what’s ahead of us, but we all know we’re gonna take our time to make sure we get round safely. Chat turns to training. How far did you go? People start to sound worried when they share that their longest run was only 19 miles. 16 miles. I say “I’ll make you laugh, my longest run was 6 miles”. Cue laughter from everyone, a chorus of “yes that does make me feel better”, before they realise. I’m telling the truth. Yet at this particular moment, just minutes away from The Queen pressing the start button, I know I am ready.

ANDDDDD WE’RE OFF.

Only I’m not. And it will take something near to 53 minutes before I cross the start line (I wasn’t joking when I said I was at the back).

“Whatever you do. Don’t set off fast. It’s slightly downhill, it’ll catch you out. Pace yourself”

I’m running. I’m running the London Marathon. Oh and I’m walking. I’m walking the London Marathon. I am here. I am doing this. This doesn’t seem real.

I’m passed by Mr Bump. A full pack of Pink Lady Apples. A man with an inflatable T-Rex suit on. A dalek, complete with sound effects. 3 rhinos.

People passing me gently squeeze my arm. They’ve read the message on my shirt, they tell me I’m inspirational, I’m so brave, that I am amazing.

At mile 3, the shirt did something I never expected it to do. A man ran up to me and told me he too had arthritis. We get chatting (honestly, I can’t stop talking) and he asks if he can run with me. And so, for the next 8 miles, Phil becomes my new best marathon friend. He realises pretty early on that I am very bossy, but he’s too kind to say anything. I try to pass this off as being some kind of motivational runner. But really. I just love the sound of my own voice.

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When we passed the Cutty Sark, I knew that I was about to see JP. I see him and off I sprint. We hug, I start to have a few tears. I take a terrible selfie that will never see the light of day, and off I go to the Arthritis Research cheer squad a few yards up. I make a very literal song and dance about this, twirling my way up to them. And off I go again.

And then I see her. Rachel. My Sister. I didn’t expect to see her for another 7 miles. And so begin the waterworks. I literally cannot stop crying (if you zoom in you can see a single solitary tear dripping down my cheek. I assume the others quickly evaporated in the heat.)

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But the marathon waits for no cry baby so off I go again. Come on Phil, we got this! The heat increases. By this point I’m pretty sure Mo Farah has finished. A friend of Phils lives at mile 8. He comes out to see us with bottles of frozen water. I’ve never known true love quite like a bottle of frozen water against the back of my neck. At mile 11, I don’t quite know what happens. I am running followed by walking, and I turn around, and Phil has gone. I don’t know where has gone. I feel really very bad but I have to keep on going.

The crowd deserve a very special mention at this point. Along the entire course people of all nationalities, ethnicities, religions, sexuality, walk of life and more were all united by the marathon. When water was scarce on the course (which was alarmingly frequent) people were attaching hose pipes to their kitchen sinks to fill our bottles. Running out with jugs to top us up. People offering us suncream. Ice lollies. Sweets and food. So many people cheering us on by name, having some banter. They were unwavering in their support.

Half Way

Tower Bridge. That wonderful London icon. This is the point where most people get emotional. Not me. I didn’t see what the fuss was about. The thing about Tower Bridge is that it is best admired from another bridge. But hey, I ran it. It was cool.

I cross the half way point. I am now in completely uncharted territory, having never run above 13.1 miles before. But I feel very, very good. I know at about 14 miles to expect JP, Rachel and her boyfriend James, and this keeps me going. Like a mirage on the distance, I see them.

More tears. We all agree I look fantastic. If not slightly sweaty. I mutter the words “I FEEL GREAT” and off I go. I will regret this statement in just 3 miles time.

Mile 17. The right knee starts to hurt. Like, really hurt. I am by this point doing a lot more walking than I am running. People around me are dropping like flies in the heat. Canary Wharf. Now THAT sets off the waterworks. A building I so closely relate to my childhood (I don’t know why either so don’t ask) but running towards that magnificent beast really got me emotional. But still the knee hurts. I have to keep going. 20 miles. The pain gets worse. But I have to keep going. Go forward, go forward, on to glory!

At mile 21, the cheer squad has increased one, by the arrival of Max, who’s birthday it happened to be. Max has been my dearest friend since we met at university almost 10 years ago and I love him to bits. Somehow a sign has appeared! Wow! They made me a sign!! I will learn afterwards that they found this sign discarded on the ground, but as I happen to be Miss Becca, they took the sign as a sign they were meant to find it. More tears. I have lost so much fluid through both sweat and tears.

The Knee

I don’t know how I do it, but I find myself at 24 miles. Time has gone alarmingly quickly. And then it happens. The knee. It twists. I want to cry out. I want to be sick from pain. But I can’t. I am within touching distance of the finish now, I have to keep moving. It all becomes a blur from here on. I spend about a mile walking with a fellow Team A runner Hazel who fills me with the encouragement I need to keep hobbling.

25 miles.

Buckingham Palace. The cheer squad for the final time. A tap on the shoulder from a fellow runner. “I have arthritis too, I just want to say I love your shirt.” We get talking. 400 meters to go. I tell her I have to run this part. I have to run across that line. I do.

I cross that line.

I completed the marathon.

The girl I just met also crosses the line. She cries. I cry. I ask if I can hug her and she says yes. We realise at this moment we ‘know’ each other through a facebook group for young people with arthritis ‘Arthurs Place’. Frederica. Rheumatoid arthritis warrior. We had connected for the first time the day before, and by the powers of the universe, we ended up crossing the line at the exact same time.

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And off I hobble to St James’ Park to meet the squad. I can’t support any weight on my right leg now. It is a buckling mess. I realise at this point that my complete lack of distance training was the best thing I could have done. Or not done as the case may be. If I’d have done 20 miles in training, there’s a high chance my knee would have gone and I wouldn’t have been able to take part. See. Always method to my madness.

The real tears start. The uncontrollable sobbing. I am OVERWHELMED by messages from people. Friends old and new. Strangers. Work colleagues. Long lost loves and worst enemies. There isn’t a single person who at that moment in time I don’t hear from. I am lost for words. I was told I would never run again and I just completed the marathon. I phone my beloved Mum, who hears me cry out the words that I did it. Cool as anything she simply says “Well done, I knew you would do it”, and she did. I can never admit to her that she was right, but she was.

I can’t stand up. I can’t walk. I have to be supported pretty heavily with a person either side of me. But it’s ok. I can take this pain. This is a pain I never thought I would experience. A pain that tells me I achieved the unachievable.

It occurs to me that I haven’t had a wee in over 7 hours (we’re all friends here). This is probably the longest time in my entire life I have gone without. I am affectionately known as wee-wee head, due to my drinking 4 liters (minimum) of water every day. It will take me about 6 days to properly re-hydrate myself again. It will take me a week to truly appreciate what I have achieved.

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The Aftermath

And just like that. It’s done.

I promised the world that I would never run another marathon.

I instantly take it back.

I want to do it all over again. Not at that very moment admittedly. But next year. Every year my body will allow me. I’m going to run it again.

Best marathon friend forever Phil reaches out to me on facebook. I am overjoyed. We both survived the greatest test we’d ever faced and made a friend in the process.

The next few days pass in a haze. My knee is very bad, and even now, is still excruciating, but I have that same naive belief it will get better. I returned to work to be met with high praise and admiration, even by those who doubted I would do it beforehand. The sponsorship money rolls in. The support makes me emotional again.

Whilst I am no longer an official Team A member, my work with Arthritis Research UK is hopefully not finished. Ive been trying to convince them to put me in TV advert so that the world can see my beautiful face. I’m not sure if they think I’m joking…..

The Future

If you have made it this far, I salute you.

In a few days time I am back in hospital for toe surgery. No running for a few months. The next challenge is The Great North Run in September. Given how good I am at just winging it, I probably won’t start training until the day before.

I still don’t think what I have achieved has fully hit me yet. I don’t know when the reality will hit me. It’s coming in drips, but the enormity of it is still to come.

My marathon of 26.2 miles might not be everyone’s marathon. Just walking 500 meters will feel like the same achievement for other people. But two years ago, and even a year ago, I lost that belief that I could do this. I never thought I would do it. I gave up. In my lowest moments I never saw this day happening. And whilst I’m not saying that everyone has a marathon in them, I do know that arthritis doesn’t have to rob you of everything. I want to tell you all that there will be better days. That those hopes and dreams you feel have been taken from you are still there to be yours. Never, ever stop believing like I did.

Final Thoughts

Of all the photos that got taken through the day, this one is possibly my favourite. Sure we might be looking in different directions, but I can feel the love between us. I honestly wouldn’t share wearing a medal with anybody else.

If you have a sibling who you don’t look particularly similar to, take some comfort from the fact that despite having no resemblance to the other, Rachel and I are in fact 100% full sisters.  She, tall and willowy with curves in all the right places, a delicate bone structure and a figure to die for. Me, short, stumpy, big round face, body of a pre-pubescent boy, the spitting image of our Chinese Grandad when he was 60 years old.

But she is my squishy. My number one supporter. She will be well chuffed that I’ve written about her.

Thanks Squish. I love you.

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Support Groups

I should start this post by saying that it is very much intended to be tongue in cheek and is based on my own observations, although I have no doubt that most of these are recognisable to anybody who’s a member of a health related facebook group.

Support groups have offered me just that. Support. I have only very briefly met one other psoriatic arthritis sufferer, an amazing guy called Paul who works at The Hydro in Glasgow, and who kindly moved my Mum and my seats for Black Sabbath to the accessible section when he saw that I was struggling up the one million stairs. Top Bloke. So support groups, linking people together when the otherwise may feel quite isolated is great.

They do however also drive me absolutely nuts at times.

So today I introduce to you:

The 5 People You Meet in Online Support Groups

  1. The Attention Seeker. This person posts things that are usually unrelated to any kind of health condition, and is probably the same person who posts on their personal facebook “OMG can’t believe it” What’s wrong? “Can’t say on here hun.”. They post a few times a day. Things like “OMG I can’t believe I forgot to put sugar in my tea today, what am I like”. Thanks so much for sharing with us all your truly terrible ordeal Susan, sending thoughts and hugs your way during this difficult time. These people are the ones that drive me the craziest and I block the worst, most annoying offenders.
  2. The ‘I have it worse’. Whilst this person does exist in the world of arthritis, in my personal experience, this type of person is the absolute worse when it comes to psoriasis. “You have like two tiny spots, 234674% of my body is covered”. These kinds of people. Can’t offer any kind of advice without telling you theirs is worse. I always find their comments quite spiteful and feel that they are both trying to undermine the original poster, and also win at life for having it the worst. They are the real life psoriasis version of The 4 Yorkshire Men from Monty Python. And I hate them. The people. Not Monty Python.
  3. The ‘I can’t be bothered to google’. These people are very closely related to The Attention Seeker, and they can be hard to tell apart, expect that this person tends to post more on topic. But posts about things that google, mediation information leaflets or you know, their doctor, could answer (but why do that when you can get attention online! See. Closely related). “I took 2 paracetamol this morning, can I take 2 more tonight?” “I’ve been struggling to breath and have tight chest pains and I coughed up a lung earlier, any ideas what it could be?”. Nah, no idea. You tried google?
  4. The Joker. The joke teller. The meme poster. Loves a quote of words posted on a picture of a Minion. Trying to keep the spirits of the group up when all we want to do is roll around in deep heat and cry. I applaud them for their optimism. But they still drive me nuts.
  5. The Superstar. The person who knows the right thing to say. Who knows the answer or knows where to point you in the right direction. Full of reassurances and level headed. Knows the best products to buy and try and what to avoid. Can always be relied on no matter what question you posed. Every group has a few and they also happen to be my favourite people in the group.

Special shout outs to the runners up.

  • The Childs Farm advocate. No the cream didn’t cure or clear your psoriasis. It’s just a moisturiser. I bet the Child’s Farm marketing team can retire now thanks to you all.
  • The cbd oil potential user. I think we’ve all seen enough to know that the one from Holland and Barrett tastes like poo. And no, it’s not good enough to help you.
  • The over-sharer. Shares every intimate detail of their life. Probably the same person who posts hundreds of daily photos of their toddler potty training on their personal facebook page.

Who have I missed out? I’m sure that there are probably 50 types of people you meet! Let me know who I’ve forgotten and who your favourite is!!

Who am I? What’s my name?

It’s been quite a while since I last updated my blog.

In my last entry I wrote about my ongoing struggle to overcome bouts of severe depression caused by the sudden onset of my arthritis.

Since then a lot has changed.

I started self-injecting 150mg of cosentyx. I had intentions of blogging weekly, providing updates of how I was getting on. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Why? I was scared.

Allow me to explain.

My first cosentyx injection was a success. I successfully self-administered which is a big deal for someone who previously had such a phobia of needles and injections that even just thinking about a needle would cause me to feel dizzy and sick. I was, as expected, quite lethargic for the first few days afterwards, but I felt pretty ok.

It was just 3 days later that I first noticed a difference. The psoriasis on my forehead had pretty much completely disappeared. I thought I was imagining it, maybe I was seeing a clear forehead because I wanted to. A couple days passed and I realised my scalp psoriasis, which was chronic for 14 years, had cleared by about half. But still, I was too scared to say anything. What if it didn’t last? What if it was a temporary effect? What if this was a false sense of security, and it was going to flare up even worse? I didn’t want to tempt fate.

But then my Mum commented on how clear my face was. My boyfriend whispered in hush tones that my scalp was clear, also scared to jinx it. A clear arm followed. A leg. The other arm. The other leg. Within about 2 weeks I was completely psoriasis free.

Just let that sink in.

COMPLETELY.

PSORIASIS.

FREE.

But still, I was too scared to share this. For the first time in my entire adult life I could wash my hair like a normal person. I was no longer scratching an arm until it bled. No longer leaving a trail of flakes behind me.

It was quite frankly, overwhelming.

My body started to improve too. I wasn’t stiff. I could walk with ease. Heck, I could even jog if I wanted to. My right hand started to return to normal and I was able to shake work colleague’s hands in the run up to Christmas because for the first time in a long time, the pain of a hand shake didn’t bring me to tears. I could hold a pen and write in handwriting that almost looked like my own again. Sure, I was still pretty tired and perpetually full of cold, but you pick your battles.

I knew I’d been pretty quiet about my experience when my boyfriend asked me why I hadn’t blogged about it.

And now for the next conundrum.

I, for the second time in two years, no longer knew who I was.

I was going through an identity crisis. Again.

I knew who I was before I developed arthritis. I was a runner. I was an avid life lover. I loved to dance. I loved to travel, to do ‘stuff’. I struggled, for a very long time, to work out who I was with arthritis. I was no longer bubbly, cheery, no longer able to wear the same clothes or shoes, no longer able to run, to go out, to do anything I wanted. I withdrew, I no longer made an effort with my appearance, I gave up. I learnt about the spoonie community and wholeheartedly threw myself in to it on Instagram. I started to establish who this new Rebecca was. She was still there, just slower.

And just when I started to work out who I was, I changed again.

I have deleted pretty much all of the photos I shared on Instagram to do with my health. I started to dress a little more like my old self. I’m taking better care of myself. I had a haircut. I’m back at the gym. I’m training for the marathon. Yes, you did read that correctly. Training for a marathon. I distanced myself from the spoonie community. Thinking this would help me to feel ‘normal’. But even updating my blog doesn’t feel like the right thing to do and I don’t know why. I still have my arthritis, it’s just hidden right now.

It’s something doctors never tell you, is it? Identity crisis caused by a chronic illness. I knew I was feeling grief for my old life, but I never realised just how much I as a person had changed. How little I knew myself.

I sound really ungrateful for the cosentyx, and I’m not, not at all. It’s giving me a second shot at life. It’s just overwhelming. I’d almost finally come to terms with life in the slow lane, and suddenly, everything changes again. No wonder I’m exhausted.

So where do I go from here? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Answers on a postcard please.

 

 

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Written

When I write and publish a blog post, I am often praised for being open, honest and brave. From friends who text me to complete strangers who reach out to me, the support I receive after each post always features those words. I have often found this hard to understand, because for me, I am merely being myself and I don’t see myself as any of those things because I’ll talk about and share anything!

Nothing feels off topic. There isn’t anything that I wouldn’t talk about. What I write about in my blog about my struggles with my arthritis are exactly the same conversations I have with the people in my life on a day to day basis. I am a total open book.

Or am I?

Because there has been one topic that I haven’t yet tackled. One issue that I have struggled to tell anybody about at work (just two people know). Something that only a handful of people closest to me in my life know about (just the seven people). And why is this? Because I haven’t been open enough. I haven’t been honest enough. And I certainly haven’t been brave enough. Until now.

We live in a society now where we are encouraged to talk about mental health. We all have mental health, both good and bad. But we still live in a world where it takes a lot to stick your head above the parapet and say “Hey, I’m struggling”. But I’m big enough and old enough and ugly enough to be that person.

So here we go.

My name is Rebecca, and today I had my 6 month review of my first ever course of anti-depressants.

There. I said it. It’s out there. Do I feel better for it? I don’t know.

I should start by saying that I don’t need to make this blog post and I don’t even need to share with you all what’s been going on. But I am going to because I do have the strength of character to share and to put myself out there and because I know there will be a lot of you reading this who have been going through the exact same thing and have maybe felt alone and maybe even a sense of shame about it. But also because writing has been my form of therapy and saying all of this ‘out loud’ allows me to accept it, embrace it and crucially, move on.

So. How did this come about I hear you cry?

Well as anybody with a chronic illness can attest to, waking up one day sick, and realising that you will never, ever EVER get better is quite a hard thing to take in and to accept. And I neither took it in or accepted it.

The first few months after my diagnosis were not easy. I was upset, tired, confused and scared of what the future would bring. Who wouldn’t be! I could barely walk and I had never in my entire life felt pain like it. So I got signed off work by my doctor for a fortnight and it was the best decision I ever made. It gave me time to research psoriatic arthritis, to rest, to sleep, and even to see some of my friends all of which perked me right up. The anti-inflammatories I was prescribed started to kick in, I was walking again, heck, I even ran and entire half marathon!

I started on methotrexate the week after the half marathon in mid September. I had such high expectations! It should help your joints and clear your skin I was positively told by every medical professional I met! Life will go back to normal!!

Only it didn’t. The methotrexate didn’t work. My skin became worse. More joints became inflamed at an alarming speed. The dosage was increased. Still nothing happened. The pain became unbearable. The higher my dosages went, the worse my fatigue became. I would take the methotrexate on a Friday and literally spend the entire weekend in bed. Either asleep, or crying. I couldn’t be trusted to drive when I was this fatigued. I couldn’t go out of an evening because I literally couldn’t do it.

By the November I became withdrawn, quiet and a shadow of my former self. I didn’t want to talk to my boyfriend so what little conversation we managed was mainly me moaning, crying or shouting at him. We had just purchased our first home together, were living with each other for the first time in our 5 year relationship and the poor boy had just had a pacemaker fitted, he really didn’t need to have to deal with Moaning Myrtle too. Sorry Jack.

Christmas was a DISASTER. I spent the entirety of Christmas day in floods of tears. I refused to speak with Jack on the phone. Sorry Jack. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t speak, I just wanted to cry. I hurt, I hated my life and I hated everybody in it. I was due to travel to see Jack and his family on Boxing Day and I refused to go down. Sorry Jacks family. I wanted to just stay locked away in my room with my cat and never see the world again.

New Year came around, and my methotrexate dosage increased not once, but twice. I was now at rock bottom. My fatigue was now so severe that I couldn’t work on a Monday morning because I was still recovering from the Friday night. How life can change! I used to spend weekends recovering from wild nights out, a wild night out now consists of going to bed past 9pm!

April came and I didn’t recognise myself anymore. Not in any way. I didn’t wear make up, I barely brushed my hair, I took no effort in my appearance at all. I didn’t speak at work, I didn’t smile, I stopped laughing. My arthritis was not only any better on the methotrexate it was getting worse and worse and worse. As was I on a personal level. I was at rock bottom  And so, one Saturday on a shopping trip with my Mum, I said the words “I think I may be sad and I think I need some help”

Over a cup of tea.

In Greggs.

GREGGGGGGS.

For Gods sake why couldn’t it have been somewhere classier? Literally my one and only time in a Greggs and it had to be the setting for the most important conversation of my life.

Anyway I digress. My Mums response was “Yes, you are”. So I told her I was going to go to the doctors and she reassured me I was doing the right thing. I told boyfriend the exact same thing, he had the same response as my Mum. I clearly surround myself with very similar people.

So off to the doctors I went. Jack kindly and selflessly left work early and accompanied me to my appointment. Only to be left in the waiting room by himself because I decided to go in alone. Sorry again Jack, nothing personal.

“I’m not depressed. I’m just struggling to cope with this situation. With my body. Struggling to cope with life right now. I just need a boost to get me back to who I was and then I’ll be ok”

And that was it. 20mg of fluoxetine a day for 6 months and you’ll be back to your normal fabulous self. Within two weeks my appetite had completely disappeared and I suffered my first of a serious of crippling panic attacks. Side effects clearly listed in the 10 foot of leaflet but scary nonetheless. Appetite quickly came back. *Sigh*.

But then I also started to come back.

A hairbrush here. Some nail polish there. I came off the methotrexate in July and my energy increased. I started to cope with normal, everyday situations better. I was no longer a crying mess unable to cope with even the simplest tasks. I started to come out of my shell again at work. I started to talk to Jack again. He possibly preferred me when I had less to say. Sorry Jack. You just can’t win. I wasn’t unnaturally happy (heaven forbid) but I was normal. As normal as I could ever be.

So now I feel almost strong enough to take on the world again. As my arthritis continues to cause me new pains and new problems, it isn’t to say I won’t have the odd wobbly moment, but I know I can cope. If not cope perfectly, but cope better. When asked today how long I’ve been told to wait before my new medication, cosentyx works, my response was “how long is a piece of string” so I’m going to stay on the pills until Christmas to get me over the first few weeks of self-injecting cosentyx (coming to another blog post to you soon) and to see how my body responds, I think that’s the best thing for me.

So if you’re reading this and you feel a little less alone, feel a little bit like you’re not the only one who has these feelings, that you’re not the only person going through it or a little bit closer to admitting to yourself or others that you need a bit of a pick me up then I’ll know that finding the strength to put myself out there has been worth it.

The 5 things I wish I’d been told when I was newly diagnosed.

It’s been 18 months since I developed Psoriatic Arthritis and 14 months since my diagnosis. I don’t think I knew anybody who had arthritis. I didn’t really understand what it was. What it is. I didn’t know that people my age, and a lot younger could be affected so terrible by this terrible condition.

I had nobody to turn to. Nobody to ask advice. Nobody who I could relate to. I had a terrible medical team who threw a few leaflets my way and expected that to be sufficient. I feel very much that in the beginning I had to make it up as I went along, with varying degrees of success.

I eventually discovered a whole community of people who suffer from chronic illnesses and disabilities through Instagram. Though these people are not directly in my life I take a lot of strength in knowing that there are others out there like me. But my experience of feeling lost in this world of chronic illness was what led me to blogging. Especially when it comes to Psoriatic Arthritis, which is so poorly understood or even known about.

So in todays blog post I’m going to list the 5 main things that I wish I had been told when I was newly diagnosed. I hope that some of you can relate and I’d love to know what you wish you’d been told when you were first diagnosed with your chronic illness.

  1. You will feel overwhelming grief
    This one was a hard one to get my head around.  The first few weeks after my diagnosis I couldn’t stop crying. I kept thinking about all the things I could no longer do. I couldn’t run, which was my favourite thing. I couldn’t go out dancing. I couldn’t do the things that made me happy. The things that made me, me. They were gone The old me was gone. All I could think about was the things I probably could never do again. The things that I was going to do in the future that I would no longer be able to do. Thinking about things that I’d never even considered doing but now I couldn’t do them it destroyed me. I grieved. For a very very long time. For who I was. For my old body. The Rebecca pre-diagnosis. She’s gone. She’s never coming back. I still find that hard to come to terms with even now. But the grief for your body and your life pre-diagnosis is perfectly normal. But never spoken about. I have never heard any kind of health professional mention it. But it was the first emotion I ever went through. An emotion I’m still going through. But what I have learnt though is that the grief doesn’t have to be all negative. The process enables me to accept who I am now. Saying goodbye to who I was and hello to who I am now. My new life. My new body. The new Rebecca. So if you feel grief, don’t beat yourself up by thinking you shouldn’t feel these things. Feel it. Live it. Cry it out. Scream it out. But say hello to the new you, give yourself a big hug and know that you’re still the same person you were before.
  2. You will feel sad
    Similar to the feeling of grief, you’re likely to feel sad and again, this is perfectly fine!! I spent an entire year feeling sad before I could admit it. I called it my ‘situational sadness’. I was sad because of the situation I found myself in. Sore, stiff, off work, stuck in bed, depressed. I tried to fight it for so long. I thought I was supposed to just get on with things as they were before. It never occurred to me that I was ok to be sad because I had arthritis. But of course I was! It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to say you’re not as happy as you were before. It’s ok to admit this to not only  yourself but other people! Sadness isn’t a weakness and ultimately, sadness will pass. If you want to cry, cry. Sometimes that release of emotions through crying is all you need to feel better.
  3. Painkillers will be your best friend
    I never knew I could hurt so much. I didn’t know what pain was. Doctors and specialists will talk to you about what medication to take but they don’t tell you that sometimes you’ll be in so much pain you can’t even get out of bed to go to the toilet. I felt like I had to just suck it up and get on with it. I was so busy thinking about the pain and the limitations it was giving me it didn’t always occur to me to take painkillers. But you know what? PAINKILLERS CAN BE AMAZING! Don’t feel guilty for taking them. Don’t think that they make you weak. Don’t think that you shouldn’t be taking them and that you should try and be brave and fight through it. Take them painkillers. Keep some with you at all time because you never know when you might need them. Painkillers will become your best friend. Love them and they’ll love and help you back.
  4. People will annoy you
    I could make a whole blog post just about these people. I may well go on to do so. Be prepared to hear “you’re too young for arthritis” “it could be worse” and “ahh I’m sure it’s not really as bad as you say”. I’m not too young, it’s already pretty bad and actually, I only tell you about the tip of the iceberg. These people will annoy you. You know who else will annoy you? People who know what’s caused your condition and know just what can cure you. “It’s because you drink milk, become vegan and you’ll be cured!” “I sell products through my pyramid scheme business that will cure you” “Have you tried taking a supplement for joints? I had a sore knee once and since I started taking these tablets it hasn’t come back”. Whilst I’m sure a lot of these people do mean well, it really annoys me. I don’t care if your friend ‘has it worse than me’, you don’t know my situation. Also, I’m going to eat and drink whatever the hell I like. NOTHING caused this. NOTHING will ‘cure’ this. Learn to smile at these people and give them some kind of sassy, but polite response.
  5. You will be ok
    That’s right, you will be! It might not feel like when you’ve just been diagnosed, and there’s no real telling how long it will take for you to get there as everybody is different, BUT YOU WILL BE OK. You will smile again. You will enjoy life. You will laugh and love and have fun. You might be a bit slower than you were but the good times will return. Embrace the new you. You’re ok.

Why me? Why not me!?

“Unable to use my left thumb, which is swollen beyond recognition. Unable to apply much strength with my right hand because my wrist is too weak. Worried sick that my ability to write will soon be gone.”


I wrote these words in my last blog post on September 5th.


It is now the 19th October. I am off work, off my face on tramadol, having lost the ability to use 6 of my fingers and my wrist. My worst nightmare did come true. I cannot write. I cannot squeeze toothpaste out of the tube. Open doors. Flush toilets. Turn the key to open my front door. I can only type and text with two fingers. Even stroking the cat brings me to painful tears.


How did I get here so quickly? Why have my fingers given up on me, one after the other? Why am I still medication free after 10 weeks? Why so many questions?


Since my last blog post, the steroid shot did eventually kick in. I regained my strength, I was walking a lot better, moving a lot more freely. I came out of the flare. I don’t know exactly when I came out of it because it happens so gradually it’s hard to pin point the exact moment. But I did. I became pretty much normal. Life became normal again. I became normal.


But that pesky thumb was always there. Always getting that little bit redder. That little bit more inflamed. I wore a thumb and hand support. I can’t say it made much difference. But I was able to get on with life.


Just over a week ago, out of the blue, both of my hands, all of the joints, everything, hurt. And I mean really hurt.


Last week I flew down to London to visit my Sister as planned but knew this was the beginning of the end for my hands (Dramatic? Moi? Never!)


And so it was. I returned to work 3 days ago struggling to do even the simplest of tasks. Yesterday I managed to get a doctors appointment because I couldn’t bend my fingers. I was an emotional wreck. I got to work after my appointment and last for one hour before I was sent home because I couldn’t stop crying. Why is this always happening to me? Why couldn’t I have a slow onset of arthritis? Gentle pains for many years before it becomes a concern. Why, like my toes, does this has to rapidly happen, one joint going straight after another. I think I have only my spine now unaffected (coming to a blog post near you soon maybe?….Help! I lost my spine!)


Why me?


Such a truly horrible question and I one that ordinarily I hate. Generally in life something is either going to happen to you, or it’s not. Arthritis happened to me. I should embrace it and get over it. But in these low moments, where my body is changing beyond recognition and having an impact on everything, it’s hard not to think ‘why me’ and I hate myself for it. Having no control over your body, no control over you future, no control over your present even, is terrifying. To go from being up and running around the streets of London like I would have done before I became sick, to being bed bound, wincing even just trying to drink from a bottle of water is devastating. I don’t deserve this. You don’t deserve this. Nobody deserves this. But trying to come to terms with the fact that I am dealing with this, and will be every day for the rest of my life is one of the biggest battles.


Maybe I need to ask myself why me, and look for the positives. Why me? Because I have the strength and the honesty to admit that life can be utter rubbish. To be brave enough to put myself out there. Because every time I post a personal photo or blog post I am overwhelmed with people getting in touch with me to say that they can relate to me and that they feel that little bit less lost knowing they are not alone. Maybe I should use this terrible opportunity to my advantage? How, I don’t quite know, but I’m sure I’ll work it out eventually.
I am now on tramadol. I am unsure what I think about it so far because I actually feel in more pain than I did before I started taking it.


Some positive news was that 3 weeks ago I saw my horrible rheumatologist, who was so horrified by how bad my joints and my pesky psoriasis had become I was given the go ahead for Cosentyx, a stage earlier than most people get it. Some negative news is that I haven’t even heard from the nurse yet about getting my first dosage so I imagine I’m going to be waiting another 3 weeks before I even get that phone call.


Where to go from here? I’m off work today and tomorrow, taking the time at home to become used to the tramadol and to have a bloody good rest. I’m still emotional. I’m still overly dramatic. But I always have been, why change now!


So what I’m going to do is a run a hot bath full of Epsom salts, I’m going to have a nice long soak and I’m going to ask myself why me, and answer with all of the positive reasons why. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

Send Help. And Cookies.

Since my last blog post, a lot has happened. So much, I’m not even sure I know where to begin.

I came off methotrexate. Within 2 days I went in to the worst flare I have ever had. I was back to being practically bed bound. Swelling, stiffness, more swelling, more stiffness. The pain was intolerable and sadly, the arthritis undeniably both felt, and looked, like it was spreading to new joints, including a thumb and a wrist.

So I started sulfasalazine. Full of hope. Maybe this medication would be the one! Only it wasn’t. Despite having very few side effects after my first couple of dosages (mild headache and nausea) I broke out in such a severe reaction head to toe rash that I was taken off it immediately only after 6 days.

Only it wasn’t a rash.

It was psoriasis. And I am now covered, there is hardly an area of skin not affected by plaques. Hands. Feet. Both legs. Both arms. Boobies. Bum. Torso. Tummy. Face. EVERYWHERE.

I am now medication free. Covered in psoriasis. Unable to use my left thumb, which is swollen beyond recognition. Unable to apply much strength with my right hand because my wrist is too weak. Worried sick that my ability to write will soon be gone. My right foot, untouched by arthritis, now rapidly affected in each and every toe. A failed trip to podiatry in which the woman called me a liar and made it clear that she would go out of her way to prevent me having the surgery I both need and want. A comical trip to the doctors for a steroid shot which ended up with me going on a tour of the Aberdeen pharmacies, nobody knowing which pharmacy I was supposed to go to. A call to NHS 24 late one Friday night asking them to administer a direct to joint steroid shot to my ankle as it was so swollen it had absolutely no movement, only to be denied because shots are only available on a Wednesday (Lol wut?!) More time off of work. More time asking people for help. More time spent crying and feeling sorry for myself and feeling utterly fed up. More time spent locked away in the flat, not able to face the world. More time asking JP for constant reassurance that I’m ok. That I’ll be ok.

But coming off of methotrexate was the correct decision. Right? I have to keep telling myself it is. It was.

Who knows. I certainly don’t know. I can’t make sense of any of it. I don’t know if I’m coming or going most days. I’m barely getting by. I have still 4 weeks until I go back to rheumatology (to see Dr Evil Liar, but that’s a whole nuther story) and I can only hope that better medication is offered to me. Physically, and mentally, I cannot continue like this.

It is not all doom and gloom though. My Mum (also a cripple) and I enjoyed the most fantastic holiday in Slovakia and Austria and if you’ve never been to Vienna you really should. We were overwhelmed with help and support from people across the entire city. My bedroom was finally decorated. A fantastic day was had by all at the Braemer Gathering. Sure the payback for all of this has been immense, and trying to balance out what energy I can expend v what I should conserve is still a constant battle, but again, I’ll get there.

If anybody has had similar experiences after methotrexate, sulfasalazine, rapid guttate psoriasis break outs then pleaseeeeeeeeeeee get in touch with me and give me your advice!!

In the meantime, send your healing thoughts. And send cookies. Cookies make everything ok.