Thursday, 10 October 2013

Joint Effort

National Arthritis Week 2013 is taking place right now (specifically,  October 7th-13th) and this year’s theme - making a Joint Effort Pledge ('joint' effort... geddit?) is designed to help raise awareness about what it’s like living with arthritis or caring for someone affected, as well as helping to raise vital funds for research that will make a difference.

I get asked a lot by charities and other good causes to help publicise various campaigns and if I can, I will. But in this case I've something of a personal interest too. More of that later.

Arthritis can be a devastating condition and reduces the quality of life of 1 in 6 people in the UK.
It doesn’t just affect older people either. It can affect people at any age even including babies. Not a lot of people know that (as someone with big glasses once said).

In fact, not a lot is known by quite a lot of people about arthritis, which is why one of the things the charity Arthritis Research UK (which receives no government money, by the way!) is encouraging people to do this week is to make that pledge - the Joint Effort Pledge - to encourage people to share their experiences and to find out more about the realities of living with arthritis.

In an email explaining how I might like to blog about this for them, I was sent a short questionnaire. Specifically, a ‘ten things you might not know...’ questionnaire I was invited to share about my condition. Yes, my condition. We've all got problems and yours are happening to you so I rarely (if ever) like to talk about mine but seeing as the campaign is all about sharing and awareness raising (and seeing as they asked), here goes...

1. The condition I live with is called psoriatic arthritis (the same thing the late Dennis Potter had). It's an auto-immune response which basically means that even if I'm not sick my body thinks I am and starts attacking what it thinks are infectious invading pathogens. Except they're not. They're my joints and skin. So I get sick. Which means... you know the rest.

2. I was diagnosed aged... about thirty-six or seven (I honestly can't remember). Although I'd had the symptoms for a lot longer it seemed to take an inordinate amount of time to get a proper diagnosis. That's one of the things Arthritis Research UK does - help educate GPs and other health professionals.

3. How my condition most affects my day to day life? Put simply, it makes getting out of bed in the morning bloody hard work. (But then, isn't it always?) And walking is almost always painful.

4. A new hobby/interest I’ve taken up since my diagnosis? Nothing new I'm afraid. Although it has stopped me doing several things like hang-gliding, mountain-climbing and white-water rafting. But then, I didn't do any of those things before either.

5. What living with my condition has taught me... Hmmm. To be thankful for small mercies, maybe? And that, in my case, my skin isn't anything like as bad as The Singing Detective's.

6. My advice for other people living with the condition is... get it treated and get treated early. Faffing about with my initial symptoms has probably given me permanent joint damage but it can be modified and contained (never cured, sadly) so easily these days that no one need risk bone damage.

7. A gadget I couldn’t live without is... my iPhone. But then, who can't?

8. What gets me through a tough day... er, paracetomol and codeine

9. How my friends and family help me... by knowing, by understanding. And passing the pills.

10. This National Arthritis Week I’d like to say thank you to... my erstwhile GP (now retired) who - where myriad others had failed - instantly (and I do mean, instantly - almost psychically - within seconds of my walking into his surgery) diagnosed the condition for what it was and arranged to put me on the long and winding treatment road.

Thanks Dr Rance!

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