“I don’t want to be treated any differently, I’m still a normal person.”

22 October 2020
Olivia with her boyfriend and in the gym with a friend.

We spoke to Olivia, 19, last October about her experiences of living with JIA. A year on, Olivia has adapted to different treatments and is taking the next steps with her dream career.

Here she shares her plans for joining the police and the importance of having supportive people around you.

“I’ve moved from being treated at Milton Keynes to the orthopaedic centre in Oxford.”

The team are amazing, and Dr David is just brilliant.

My skin has been bad for ages with red splotches and straightway he said, you have psoriasis. I was prescribed a combination of methotrexate and Amgevita.

It worked straightaway and I could see the difference. The pain is better in my ankle, knee and elbow, although I do still get tired from the side effects, but I find ways to work through them.

It’s been all online and telephone services since COVID-19 and that’s been weird to adjust to. Although now I can arrange face to face and I’ll do this, as I want talk about having a test for lupus, just in case, as I know it could be a possibility.

“Everything is different, and it takes some getting used to.”

When we were in lockdown, I kept in touch with my personal trainer, Kelly Hiney, and did some online exercise sessions and bike rides with mum.

I’m back working in a bar and I squeeze in the gym when I can, they’re very good and well regulated. I always wash my gym kit straight away afterwards and have a shower.

Everything is different and it takes some getting used to. I was stressing about it, but at work we have everything set up with table service, screens in place and plenty of hand sanitisers.

I want to stay safe and keep everyone around me safe, and so I follow social distancing and the latest guidance. I think you need to do what feels comfortable for you.

"I recently found out my application to join Bedfordshire police was successful!"

When I did my application form, I didn’t mention my arthritis, as I’m not technically registered disabled. I’ve had arthritis for years and I understand my patterns. I know what to do if I’m in pain or not sleeping.

I have filled in a medical which my doctor has supported, and I’ll need to pass a physical, so I will be getting back in the gym!

I’ve always wanted to be in the police force, to keep people safe, even those causing trouble who have issues behind scenes. I want to give back to my community.

I don’t want to be treated any differently, I’m still normal person. I just have the joints of 65-year-old.

I always wanted to hide it when younger, but now if people want to judge me, that’s up to them. I have people who understand me and love me for me, my boyfriend and family are amazing and his older brother has arthritis too.

“If you love someone, you will work through it.”

My boyfriend, Ewan, applied to go into the army in 2018 but he broke his ankle and then everything was deferred again with COVID-19.

He won’t be back until Christmas and will be away for months at a time. If I get into the police, I will be busy, but we’ll stick together.

We’ve done a lot of talking and started thinking about the future from mortgages to a family. I’m not an ordinary woman and we’ll have to plan everything like having children due to my medication.

If you love someone, you will work through it. It’s all new but at some point, it will become normal.

"My advice to others with arthritis is…"

  • If you want to go into a specific career and have doubts, still apply and speak to the employer.

  • If you are thinking about getting into a relationship, take your time to think about how you feel about your arthritis, don’t rush into anything. Some days you just need a hug. I share photos with my boyfriend when my skin is bad and that can say a lot without words.

  • Be open and honest with your partner. I told my boyfriend about my arthritis and that I might feel sick or bite his head off some days. We’ve grown together, he comes to appointments and has seen my bad days.

  • Keep communicating and don’t keep them in the dark, as they might think they have done something wrong. It was hard at the beginning talking about my arthritis as I didn’t find it easy.

  • Try writing down how you feel, if that’s easier, you have to remember you’re not a bad person. If you are with the right person they won’t care, they will like you for who you are.

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