While most days my arthritis is manageable, sometimes it can get a bit out of hand. Every day is completely different, and it’s pretty impossible to predict whether I’m going to have a good day or a bad day.
Flares of arthritis are pretty common, and pretty intense. When I was younger they used to happen on a yearly basis (in winter – JIA does not love cold weather), but they’ve become much less common recently. My last, and worst was in 2009. Let me set the scene…
When I applied to university in 2007, I decided to apply for a course at Lancaster University which involved a year abroad. After being accepted to Lancaster, I then had to apply to a university to do my year abroad at. Fast forward to April 2009, the Easter holiday from university – I’ve been accepted to Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Flights are booked, I’ve sorted my visa and submitted my accommodation request to Carleton.
At this point, I’ve been at university in Lancaster for about six months. I’ve been in arthritis remission for almost a year, made some friends, merrily settled into drinking and, to be honest, started to freak out about my year abroad. I’m forgetting about my freak out on this particular evening in April 2009 though, because I’m off to a party. Later that evening, one of my friends would pick me up (people tend to do this, I think it’s because I’m tiny) and drop me. Unfortunately, I would land awkwardly on my left knee.
I should stress at this point, that the events that occurred next were no one’s fault but my own. Really.
I was in some pretty intense pain after this fall (anyone who was at the party will remember I’m sure) but once I went home, put some peas on and took some ibuprofen my knee was totally fine. It didn’t stay fine.
I went back to university a couple of weeks later and my knee gradually deteriorated over the next few weeks. By the end of May I was in the middle of a flare up – I had lost almost two stones in weight and was suffering with pain in all of my joints. I’d recently been transferred from a paediatric rheumatology clinic to an adult rheumatology clinic, due to being 18 and that. I had yet to meet my new rheumatologist, and didn’t actually know who they were. I went to see my GP about what was clearly becoming a flare up, and was given some tablets for anaemia, some steroids for my arthritis and sent for some blood tests.
It became pretty clear at this point that going to Canada wasn’t going to be an option for me. I had to tell the university, make a request to my department for them to accept me for my second year and find somewhere to live in Lancaster. This was all arranged around a summer of arthritis rehab.
In my first appointment with my adult rheumatologist I had steroid injections in both knees – I walked in, and came out in a wheelchair an hour later. I think people were concerned! She sent me to a physiotherapist who gave me some Pilates to do (the only exercise I do apart from Aquacise), hydrotherapy appointments and hand classes. Hand classes are brilliantly mad and involve dipping your hands in hot wax, wrapping them up for 10 minutes, washing the wax off and doing some exercises with buttons. Yeah.
This flare up took a lot of coming back from, but it’s definitely made me more cautious. I’d never risk ignoring an injury like that again, but it’s not just because of the permanent mechanical damage to my left knee, the fact I can’t drive a manual car anymore, or because I now will definitely have to have it replaced at some point in my life.
Just having arthritis makes you more emotional and sad and grumpy than the average person, and flares make those emotions ten times worse. That’s the case without adding the sadness caused by changing plans and the loneliness of not being able to explain or control anything. I’d never risk ignoring an injury like that again because the whole thing made me really sad, and I don’t ever want to be that sad again.