“Having arthritis doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my life.”

24 July 2019
Neil Mahoney, who has rheumatoid arthritis, with his family.

Diagnosed at 2 years old, Neil’s parents noticed a rash which they first thought could by mumps. After various hospital visits, he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. At age 3 his legs would often seize up and wouldn’t straighten out, so he had a soft tissue procedure to straighten his legs.

Every single joint is affected by arthritis. A good day for me can mean waking up and my hips and knees aren’t as painful or stiff as they can be, I don’t have to walk across the hallway on my tip toes and I can generally go about my working day normally.

But on a bad day I wake up aching from head to toe, shuffling to my car to get to work and any form of movement is incredibly painful to do. My pain will fluctuate from day to day, but generally there is at least a dull ache that’s always there in my joints.

My parents instilled a really strong mindset growing up

My parents have been there throughout everything. Growing up I spent a lot of time in hospitals in London and my mum would travel down with me.

They’ve been a great source of support, but they also brought me up not to act any differently just because I had arthritis. Arthritis can be really tough and stressful at times so their outlook has given me a really strong mindset.

The kind of mindset that decided I wasn’t going to let my arthritis stop me from planning trips away and enjoy going out with my friends on pub crawls in my wheelchair.

Having arthritis doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my life

A few years ago I travelled to America with brothers and friends for 2 weeks. We hired a car and I did all the driving – roughly 2000 miles - including driving through the centre of New York City! We crammed a lot in during that trip and I’ve got some great memories.

I didn’t let my lack of movement stop me taking that trip. Having arthritis doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my life and make the most of those days when I feel good.

I constantly remind myself that we only get one life, so we’ve got to live it, and be determined not let arthritis rule us.

So when I saw Versus Arthritis were campaigning to change perceptions of arthritis, it really caught my eye. It’s so encouraging to see my reality portrayed and broadcast to the rest of the country.

It’s been a great way to show those around me what it can be like trying to get out of bed every morning. Work colleagues have asked me, “Is that what it’s like for you then? I didn’t realise.” It opens up a conversation then for them to ask me more questions.

That’s why I wanted to get involved with Versus Arthritis to share my story and spread the word of what living with arthritis is really like. Not to make people feel sorry for us, but to understand what we’re experiencing.

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