Cat has rheumatoid arthritis. She experiences pain in all of her joints. Cat says that the worst thing about living with arthritis is the constant fatigue and people not understanding how exhausted Cat can be on a daily basis.
Cat is a 24 year old student doctor in her fourth year at university. She was diagnosed when she was 14 with polyarticular rheumatoid factor positive juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Most people refer to Cat’s arthritis as rheumatoid arthritis. Cat also has osteoporosis and has had her hip replaced.
Cat started having problems six months before she was diagnosed. She was getting a lot of pain in her shoulder and upper arm. She visited the GP and was told that she had pulled a muscle. Eventually Cat’s symptoms started to spread over the rest of her body and it became evident to her that there was something seriously wrong. By the time Cat was diagnosed she struggled to perform basic tasks, such as feeding, washing and dressing herself. Sometimes she could not go to the toilet by herself. Cat’s mum provided a lot of hands on care, whilst her dad would carry her up and down the stairs.
Cat now lives with pain on a daily basis. If she has a particularly painful joint she would be awake for most of the night. Her shoulder is the area which is likely to be the most painful. Sometimes her wrists can be bad too. Cat’s main difficulty is not with pain but with fatigue. She often feels exhausted and requires 12 hours sleep a night to function properly the next day. Cat says that she only gets to sleep for this long once every two weeks. Cat becomes frustrated when people fail to understand how severe her fatigue is and how much it affects her life. People are sympathetic towards her when she is in pain, but when she is suffering from exhaustion some people overlook her struggles and say that is she is being boring or lazy.
Despite the fatigue and pain, Cat maintains an active lifestyle. In addition to being a full-time medical student, Cat raises public awareness of arthritis and is a fund raiser for Arthritis Research UK. She has run the London Marathon and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. She was an Olympic torch bearer, represented Arthritis Research UK at the Chelsea Flower Show, speaks at charity events and maintains a blog.
Cat used to inject her tummy with Humira (adalimumab) once every two weeks. This worked for a while but for some reason stopped working. She then injected herself with Enbrel (etanercept) which worked for a few years and was really affective. This stopped working a year before Cat was interviewed. She is now given a rituximab infusion which she has in hospital once every six months. This medication is said to be working well.