Wednesday 18 September 2019

'Pain really is only part of the condition'

Case Study 2: Gloria Shannon, 25 years old - Rheumatoid arthritis

Gloria Shannon
Gloria Shannon

Gloria Shannon lives in Rathmolyon, Co Meath, with her partner Aidan and although just 25, she has been suffering from arthritis for a decade.

"I first started having symptoms when I was about 15 after a school fundraiser which involved a long walk, run or cycle. I would usually be a little stiff and sore the day after an event like this, but this time the aches didn't go away and actually got worse.

* At first, it was hard to get out of low seats and opening a bottle of water or a can of beans seemed impossible. My hands became very sore and I even resorted to opening doors with my elbows. So it didn't take long for my Mam and Dad to notice and take me to the GP. I don't think arthritis ran through any of our heads as I was only 15 and it would be something we would associate with my Nana rather than me.

* The doctor was great and referred me to hospital. At first they thought it might be a virus and I was given anti-inflammatories for the swelling and told to go home and see how I got on. But three days later, I was begging my parents to take me back to the hospital as I was in agony.

* It took almost a year for me to be diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and it was quite a shock. The medics all used the word 'manage' and explained I would have to live with it forever, but I believed if I took my medicine I would be grand in a couple of weeks.

* However, I went from being a normal teenager whose biggest problem was homework to not being able to dress myself. I couldn't carry my school bag and it was actually painful to write. It was a very deep ache and it was quite hard to deal with, especially in school. When it came to walking, I was very slow and even a once-normal walk to the shop with my friends became a big ordeal. It is hard to describe the pain - my brother loved The Wizard Of Oz as a child and I felt like I finally understood the Tin Man, as every moment was sore and felt unnatural.

* Life with arthritis isn't easy and can be really tough, but pain is only part of it - you can feel really tired and it obviously makes life a lot more challenging, frustrating and overwhelming. But medicine has come a long way and it is now a bit more manageable for me. I have met some great people through my illness.

* My advice to anyone who has just been diagnosed is take things day by day and tell your doctor everything. Talk to your friends and family. It's ok not to be ok. Reach out to others who have been there. Arthritis Ireland is great and there is a Facebook group for people between 18 and 50 who have arthritis. So let it all out, whether it's a diary, talking to a friend or screaming when no one is around. I blog through The Girl With The Old Lady Bones, and it's been my saving grace."

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