“I am still me and having rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t change this.”

10 February 2021
Ananthi smiling at the camera.

Ananthi, 34, works as a scientist and was diagnosed in June 2020 with seropositive rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

She tells us how she’s learnt to adapt to the unpredictable nature of her RA and the importance of making the most of every good day.

“I noticed the symptoms at the end of January 2020.”

At first, I had a bit of pain in my knees and feet. As these coincided with my gym classes, I thought I was just overdoing it.

Then one of my shoulders went and I had severe pain. I couldn’t lift my arm up. Then as quickly as the pain came, it disappeared.

A day or two later it went to the other shoulder and a similar thing happened with my wrists. I also noticed my fingers were starting to resemble sausages.

“I made an appointment with my GP and had a blood test in March.”

After seeing the GP, my blood test results came back positive for the rheumatoid factor and I expected a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

However, we all know that the first lockdown happened at the end of March 2020! My hospital appointment was postponed, and I was left to my own devices.

As I’m allergic to ibuprofen, a lot of the anti-inflammatory pain meds are not suitable for me and I didn’t want stronger pain meds, so this left me with limited pain-relief options.

“In the months I was waiting for my appointment, the pain quickly went from 0-100.“

During this time, it would take me about half an hour to physically be able to get out of bed in the morning.

Brushing my hair, squeezing the toothpaste tube, putting my socks on were very painful tasks.

I had to take paracetamol, wait an hour for it to kick in, so my hands were ok enough to make breakfast. I’m talking putting cereal in a bowl and adding milk, nothing fancy.

I was struggling to walk, and I was scared to drive as I didn’t trust my control of the pedals, and I was unable to grip the steering wheel.

“I used to love gym classes, mainly Zumba and Les Mills BodyCombat.”

During the pandemic and the first lockdown not only did gyms close, but I was physically unable to do anything.

I was struggling to walk let alone anything more active, then I found an Instagram account where they showed chair yoga. I started doing the slowest stretches a couple of times a day. It was agony but I felt I was doing something.

I also altered my diet quite a bit. I now mainly eat fish (salmon) with a plant-based diet. Occasionally, I treat myself to chicken and lamb.

I do have a ridiculous sweet tooth, and this hasn’t changed much!

“I was finally seen at the hospital at the end of June 2020.”

At my appointment, I was told that I displayed the typical rheumatoid arthritis symptoms: the swelling, the pain in the joints, the symmetry of the disease.

I was given a short course of steroids and methotrexate as my long-term medication. The steroids kicked in almost immediately, it felt great to be a functional human again.

When I say functional, I mean getting out of bed and dressed in the morning wasn’t agonizing any more.

I also started taking methotrexate which I was a bit nervous about at first. Mainly because I knew this was a low dose chemotherapy. I previously had ovarian cancer and managed to bypass chemo back then, but this is another story.

At first, I had side effects, nausea, a bubbly tummy and a headache for a day or two but these have settled, and I’ve been mainly ok with methotrexate.

“After I started my medication, I was able to do more walks especially during the summer and early autumn.”

I’ve carried on with 20 minutes yoga stretching every morning and now I don’t need the chair.

I do resistance band work to strengthen my joints and I’ve also started introducing cardio back into my regime. Although, I can’t do high impact like I used to, as my feet joints start complaining.

Considering I was unable to walk last April / May, I’m very happy and grateful for what I can do.

“I have chosen not to tell many people about my diagnosis.”

Only a couple of people in my family know about my arthritis and my closest friends. I find it a lot easier this way. 

It’s hard to explain a condition that doesn’t go away and is invisible most of the time.

For the people I’ve chosen to tell, their attitude hasn’t changed towards me, but I’ve also made sure that my diagnosis doesn’t define me.

I am still me and having rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t change this.

My mum has been my main source of support and motivation. She spends hours researching arthritis and has become almost an expert on the topic.

I also started a dedicated profile on Instagram. I’ve never met such a supportive group of people; everyone is so willing to share their experiences and offer support.

As much as you have the support of family and friends which you certainly cannot do without, there’s something special about receiving support from strangers within this community who quickly become friends and knowing you are all sharing something in common.

My advice to others with arthritis would be:

  • Take a day at a time and do the best you can for each day.
  • Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to have those restful evenings, or even whole days if needed.
  • Remember, rheumatoid arthritis is not a textbook condition, it’s different for every person.
  • No one knows your body better than you, spot those trends and point them out to your doctors.
  • Stress plays a massive part in RA symptoms. Try to identify what causes you stress and if possible, eliminate or reduce those areas.
  • Be kind to yourself, especially on the tougher days.

We’re here whenever you need us.