I was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis in 2015 at the age of 15. It all started with an itchy, swollen knuckle which I assumed I had just injured but after 3 weeks I decided to go to the doctors. Following several blood tests, ultrasound scans and an MRI scan they diagnosed me with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. They prescribed methotrexate as this was the most common medication used to treat RA. This happened around GCSE’s, I struggled with nausea, fatigue, hair loss and the numerous other side effects of methotrexate whilst sitting exams.
I started on methotrexate tablets and folic acid but because the nausea worsened I moved to injections as the direct flow into the blood stream reduced the nausea. My mum conducted a lot of research into potential causes of the RA, not just looking at the symptoms. It is possible it could have been triggered by me being on antibiotics for 16 months as a baby, having febrile convulsions when I was 9 months until 2 years old. Or the cause could be related to gut bacteria. After more research I went gluten and dairy free, following an alkaline diet. After celebrating my A level results with a pizza I couldn’t walk. My mum found a program called the “Paddison program” led by an Australian who has successfully come off of RA medication. I drank cucumber and celery juice daily, had a plant based diet and went oil free. I tried various diets to find my triggers and have been gluten, dairy and oil free since, reinforced by the fact I had the coeliac gene.
I was very study focused at school which also did not help the situation as stress is a huge trigger for flare ups. After studying in Australia for 5 months at the university of Sydney I changed my mindset and decided to live a more balanced lifestyle, because diet on its own was not enough.
I also had the antibodies for hashimotos disease, as autoimmune diseases usually come in twos I was concerned. But, again, diet and exercise would help me to manage this.
My parents supported me all the way through and my mum and I went to Atlanta to “The Goldberg clinic”, founded by someone who had also successfully managed RA. I completed diet logs, sun logs, sleep logs, exercise logs and went on supplements that were specific to my blood tests results. My blood test markers such as ESR halved and my energy levels were the highest they had been since being diagnosed.
Unfortunately I then had glandular fever which led to hepatitis in the liver meaning I had to come off of methotrexate as it has a negative impact on the liver. So, currently I have been off the medication for 5 months, am running as much as I can to exercise, keeping my stress levels low and eating well in order to try my best to stay off the drug. I am reviewing it as an opportunity to put my energy into trying to reverse the disease.
Lessons I’ve learnt:
Stress, exercise, diet and sufficient sleep and rest and diet are four target areas which have helped me manage my RA.
If people say “how do you have arthritis when you’re so young?”, simply explain that there are 2 types of arthritis- degenerative which is associated with the older generation and autoimmune which can affect anyone, even babies as young as 6 months.
Keep positive, a positive mindset will take you very far. Never give up on trying to reverse the RA.