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Rebecca Barnard

2017-03-23 11:17

Jenny's Story

My rheumatoid arthritis started suddenly 13 years ago when I woke up with pain in one of my hands and in my wrist. Two weeks later I had the pain on the other side, and a month later I was out on a walk with the Ramblers when one of my knees gave way. The pain was so unbearable I couldn't walk on it. Two weeks after that the other knee was affected too. It took seven months to see a rheumatologist, and by that time I couldn't walk and my husband carried me into the doctor's room.

I had no record of illness - no flu etc. and the rheumatologist concluded that it had been brought on by stress. My daughter had been ill for a year with cancer and I had been looking after her, her house, husband and children until her death. After seeing the rheumatologist I then ended up in a wheelchair whilst various drugs were tried, until methotrexate started to work and I gradually started to improve. It took nearly two years until I was walking again.

In December 2013 I went to New Zealand's South Island for Christmas and the New Year to see my grandson, who was working on a farm during his gap year. We stayed in a motel near Gore on the south of the island. Although notionally summer the weather was far from warm, with a lot of rain too. However, on the third morning I noticed that I was able to get up from a very low bed with no problem at all, and was walking around and moving with no pain or stiffness for the first time in ten years. This continued for the rest of our stay there, and my daughter in law remarked on how quickly I was walking. I have never seen such heavy rain as I saw that holiday. For several days it was raining before we arose and didn't stop all day, including Christmas Day (so much for our "barbie" Christmas dinner!). However, we travelled around and I had no pain or stiffness at all. It was wonderful. We returned to London on 1 January to no rain and a temperature that seemed to be no different to summer in New Zealand. After a few days though the pain started creeping back in my joints and by the end of the week it was as if I had never been away. I mentioned it to my rheumatologist when I saw her and she said that she had heard things like that previously. If I didn't have two witnesses it would be easy to think I had imagined it.

These days, I go to a tai chi class once a week and walk as much as possible. There are times when the pain reappears and I just have to rest and take painkillers until things improve. Nevertheless, I have now got to the age of 81 and am still getting around!

If you would like to raise awareness around the impact of pain and the reality of living with a pain condition by sharing your pain experiences, please email cloudypain@manchester.ac.uk.