Until two years ago Sarah had very bad arthritis and was in severe pain. Her consultant applied and was granted funding to put her on anti-TNF treatment’ Enbrel. Sarah describes Enbrel as ‘completely and totally changing her life’.
For a couple of years before her diagnosis Sarah complained of pain in her legs which her GP put down to ‘growing pains. When she collapsed in the playground with no feelings in her legs she was sent to the hospital. Initially doctors thought she had leukaemia but tests indicated that she had juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). In her late teens she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
Sarah said that it took her a good couple of years to accept her illness. As a teenager she was in denial and refused to take her medication. She wanted to be like everyone else but realised that she couldn’t do certain things like participating in PE lessons. Her schooling was affected by her condition particularly around the time of SATS exams when she was ill at home and unable to go to school. Sarah hasn’t had a home tutor to helped her with her school work and found it difficult to cope on her own.
When she was first diagnosed her main problem was with her left knee but gradually it began to affect all her other joints. Over the years she had been on several drugs such as Sulfasalazine and Leflunomide. She was on Methotrexate for several years, first as tablets and later on in injection form. Sarah asked her GP to refer her to a specialist hospital in a nearer town because her local hospital wasn’t offering much in terms of new treatments except surgery. Sarah declined surgery. Two years ago her rheumatoid arthritis was very bad and her new hospital applied and was granted funding to put her on anti-TNF treatment’ Enbrel. She described Enbrel as ‘completely and totally changing her life’. At the time of her first injection she was bedridden and could hardly move. She said that her quality of life has improved and although things are not ‘brilliant’ she has far more mobility than before starting on Enbrel. Nowadays, Sarah is able to drive and has a part time job and is also looking forward to go back to college.
Sarah has always found it very hard to cope with the side effects of Methotrexate’ headache and sickness and has recently decided to stop taking it. Some doctors have accepted her decision while others disagreed. She is aware that her RA is better controlled when taking Methotrexate with her anti-TNF medication and since coming off Methotrexate she has noticed more stiffness.
In her experience, Sarah has found that people whether friends or boyfriends are understanding and supportive but ‘up to a point’ and says that for them it is difficult to understand the problems associated with RA.