About meHey, I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Jessica, I’m 25 years old and I have a fiancé (Michael, 26) and two beautiful boys (Harry and Alfie). Harry is two and a half and Alfie is a one year old. It’s mad, I know...hard work but I wouldn’t have it any other way. We live in Derbyshire in our new, recently bought home and are currently doing everything we can to get by in these crazy times!
I’m here to write my story about two chronic illnesses, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia, both of which I live with daily. This blog is not about me asking for sympathy, but about the harsh reality of living with two medical conditions that are very much life changing. I’m doing this partly for my own mental health, because truth be told I haven't yet come to terms with having these conditions myself, but also because I would like to think that others living with the same or similar illnesses can relate to this and maybe get some kind of clarity that actually no, you are not alone. There are thousands of others fighting the same battle as me and I want to talk about it and help you in whatever way I can.
First of all, let me tell you a bit about both conditions.
RA and FibromyalgiaRheumatoid Arthritis is a type of inflammatory arthritis. It is what’s known as an auto-immune condition. The immune system is the body’s natural self-defence system, and it protects us from infections and illness. When someone has an auto-immune condition, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy tissues, such as the joints, causing inflammation.
Inflammation is normally an important tool in the immune system. It occurs when the body sends extra blood and fluid to an area to fight an infection. However, in rheumatoid arthritis the inflammation and extra fluid in a joint can cause the following problems:
- It can make moving the joint difficult and painful.
- Chemicals in the fluid can damage the bone and joint.
- The extra fluid can stretch the joint capsule. Whenever a joint capsule is stretched, it never quite returns to its original position.
- Chemicals in the fluid can irritate nerve endings, which can be painful.
Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Muscle stiffness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Problems with mental processes (known as ‘fibro-fog’), such as problems with memory and concentration
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating
How I found out I had RA and first symptomsFrom the first day I was told I had RA I never really knew what it was. I had a vague idea because my dad and grandad both have/had this condition but--and it’s true what people say--you never really know unless you are faced with it. I came home with so many leaflets and website addresses and I just read and read and researched to try to understand. The hardest part was thinking over and over, why me? The only reason I found out about it was because I’d gone to my doctor shortly after having my first baby and I was telling him about the pains I was getting in certain areas such as my fingers, knees, ankles and toes, and how stiff they felt. He asked a lot of questions and advised me to go and have blood tests done, which I did.
For a while I had been taking iron tablets, because low iron can cause things such as aches and pains. For two months I was on these and nothing was different until I called my GP again and asked why the tablets were having no effect. I remember the receptionist on the phone advising me that a doctor was to call me back and so I waited. Eventually he called and he spoke in medical terms about what was showing on my bloods and that they had sent me a letter asking me to call them urgently. That was the start of the crazy journey I never in my wildest dreams expected to be faced with.
At the time I was 22 years old and I didn’t understand how this was happening to me. All you hear about conditions like RA are phrases like, ‘Isn't that what old people get?’ or, ‘But surely you're too young?’ That is most definitely not the case and I know that now, but I have also really struggled to reach out to others living with RA. That is another reason why I wanted to do this blog. I hope that by talking about my own experiences you can benefit from my journey coming to terms (if I even have!) with the condition.