Living with arthritis- Wendy's Story

"Like all of us, there have been many many difficulties along the way… sometimes the biggest challenge is just getting out of bed. However my main challenge when living with rheumatoid arthritis, has been raising my children and protecting them from the impact of having a mum who lives with daily severe pain“

Wendy was diagnosed with juvenile inflammatory arthritis at the age of 6. Her parents were told that she had a very poor prognosis. She was expected to end up in a wheelchair, never able to finish school or go to work. However despite the disease spreading rapidly, despite the extensive joint damage occurring very early on and despite spending frequent long periods of time in hospital, she defied every prediction.

“I finished high school and then studied to become a Speech Pathologist. I'm fortunate to work in a profession which I love and enjoy every day I go to work. I'm not in a wheelchair – yet! I met my husband who accepted my disability and health challenges unconditionally. And miraculously, although with a lot of hard work and pain, we have 2 children now aged 12 and 9.”

Wendy’s greatest task has been ensuring that her pain does not impact her children’s lives. She does this by managing her pain as best she can by pacing herself, resting when possible and using constant positive self-talk.

“Since a young age, I've talked to the kids about "Mummy's pain" and that when I'm snappy or grumpy it's probably because I'm in lots of pain. When I’m having those bad moments and days I tell them how I'm feeling so they have an idea of what to expect. They are now very good at recognising when I'm in pain or when my grumpiness is actually because of their behaviour! It's been a hard conversation to have at times but it's one I had to have. I hope this will help my children grow into empathic adults."

Having lived with RA for 40 years, Wendy has provided insight and support to many others on a similar journey, and when we asked her where she saw herself in 10 – 20 years she responded…

“That's a confronting question. I do worry about the next 10 -20 years and my body's ability to keep going. I have moments where I wonder if I can keep pushing through the constant pain. I anticipate in the next 10 years my ability to work will diminish. But for now I intend to keep doing what I'm doing and enjoy what I've got right now. My ultimate goal would be to still be independently mobile and working to some degree. I hope I'll be enjoying time with my husband and children and maybe grandchildren. And I hope that in 10 years I'll be talking about the cure for RA that has been discovered and how all of our lives will be changed by that.”

We would like to thank Wendy so much for opening up and giving us an insight into the 40 years she has lived with RA. From this, we hope others will find encouragement and hope, wherever they may be on their personal journey.