“Arthritis isn’t easy, but it’s helped me to discover new things”
You might recognise mother and daughter, Andie and Charlotte, from our latest campaign where they both candidly talk about what arthritis has taken from them and why we need to talk more about its impact. Here they tell the story of how Andie’s arthritis has shaped their lives.
Living with various forms of arthritis and other health conditions including fibromyalgia has prevented Andie doing some of the things she used to do before she was diagnosed, but it has also led her to discover an inner resilience which has made her a stronger, more confident person. She’s found a new passion in writing her blog and together with her daughter Charlotte they strike a balance to keep motivated and positive.
How did it feel when you heard about the arthritis diagnosis?
(Andie) When I was first diagnosed at 34, I was confused, shocked and I couldn’t really take it all in. I was told that I had inflammatory arthritis and I didn’t know what this was at the time.
I was devastated and angry at the beginning, because it meant that I had another diagnosis on top of being diagnosed with endometriosis when I was 16.
(Charlotte) I was only 11 when mum was diagnosed so I didn’t really have any concept of what it meant at the time. When I was a bit older, about 17, I started to notice little things, like not being able to walk to classes together.
I could see mum was becoming less comfortable, but at that age it didn’t impact on the things I was doing as I was perfectly capable of doing them alone. It was a gradual change for us all, we adjusted as a family as time went on.
In what ways do you think arthritis has changed your life?
(Andie) It’s been a progressive change and I feel I have come a long way from diagnosis. I don’t feel angry anymore, I’m more disappointed that I’ve been robbed of being more active. It’s been 12 years since diagnosis and things are a lot worse now than they were, and with that I’ve had to battle with depression. That said, I’ve learnt ways to continue enjoying life with arthritis and sharing my experiences with others has given me a lot of confidence. I don’t think I’d have had the self-esteem to take part in filming for a campaign like this before.
(Charlotte) I still go out, live life and hang out with my friends but there have been times when I haven’t done some of the things I’ve thought about doing, like leaving the area or going away with friends.
But I make the decision to stay because I want to, it’s the right thing to do and I really enjoy spending time at home and hanging out with mum. It’s not a negative alternative, you make sacrifices for your family sometimes. It’s bought us closer together.
Tell us about the things you enjoy doing and how you make these work?
(Andie) We still go on holiday as a family and do special things like that, if we can, but it comes with a lot of careful planning and often a lot of pain afterwards.
Airport assistance is something I have to use and to be honest I fear going on holiday again without my own wheelchair. You are always thinking about access, how you can get from here to there, whether hotels are wheelchair friendly, there’s so much to think about and it can be daunting.
Because of my condition I’ve started my own blog, I like to write about my experiences and I started this back in 2014 when I experienced a herniated disc in my back.
I’ve met and spoken to new people who’ve read my blog and been helped in some way, which has been very rewarding. This is what brings me joy, what I love doing and I don’t think I would have done that otherwise.
What would you tell people about living with arthritis, if you could?
(Charlotte) Some of my friends ask how mum’s doing and my closest friends are aware that she might be in bed or in a lot of pain, and so she might not be up for chatting if they come over to the house, and to me that’s normal. I try and explain that some days she’s very bad and sometimes she’s ok, and that it’s a fluctuating chronic illness that’s not going to go away.
(Andie) Having Charlotte around means everything to me and I am so grateful, I don’t feel like I can even put that emotion into words. I can’t thank her enough, she’s my child and she’s my world and she’s here, it’s just a mutual feeling between us.
- Find out more about our latest campaign and declare yourself #VersusArthritis today.