Meet our volunteers

Karen Nolan-Evans is a retired professional footballer, kick boxer and natural body builder

Karen Nolan-Evans is a retired professional footballer, kick boxer and natural body builder

Following my diagnosis, it was as if all of my dreams had been taken away. There was no point in keeping going because I had nothing to aim for. I lost all of my confidence interacting with other people and could only do things on my own.

I have finally accepted that I cannot continue to compete – and my confidence is growing. Nine months ago I thought speaking in front of strangers was history.

Since becoming a volunteer for Versus Arthritis I have been away, overnight to a conference – and not only asked questions, but also presented. I went to a training course on chairing meetings. I was the only volunteer there but felt able to join in as an equal.

I thought I would never work again, but volunteering for Versus Arthritis has shown me I have skills, and can gain more skills. I hope to be employed in the future in something I love – perhaps not in sport anymore, but something. Finding Versus Arthritis, and having a job to do that I see the point in, has given me so much confidence for my future."

Debbie is 26 and was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) at the age of two

"My arthritis affects many of my joints – my ankles, knees, hips, elbows and wrists – causing pain, stiffness and swelling. I have attended many specialised hospitals including Great Ormond Street Hospital and the orthopaedic hospital in Oswestry.

I have had three joint replacements: two hips and a knee. The first was when I was only 13. I still manage to lead a relatively normal life, with a full time job working for a national charity.I take regular medication including methotrexate and a monthly infusion of tocilizumab. With having the condition all my life, I know my own limits when it comes to walking and activities.

My twin sister was also diagnosed with juvenile arthritis when she was eight years old and is on similar medications to me. We both find it very supportive that we have each other to discuss our aches and pains.

It has been an ambition of mine to help and support other young people suffering from this debilitating condition. I am currently an Versus Arthritis Wales committee volunteer and I have also set up a new Versus Arthritis support group in North Wales for young people under 25 as part of our North Wales youth champions project."