Rheumatoid Awareness Week 2021: Katie's story

Written by Katie Walker, 15 September

Katie Walker was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2015. She writes "I have a love hate relationship with my RA - I’m happy as long as I can quantify my pain" Read about her diagnosis, what it means to her and how RA affects her everyday life.

My diagnosis story

I had initially been to see my GP about pain and swelling that I’d been having in my hands and wrists and was continuously told it was either muscular or repetitive strain from phone and/or typing. It was at this point I started taking photos of when my hand were swollen.

It all came to a head when I’d gone to visit my friend in hospital on Halloween 2014. As soon as he saw me, he could tell I was in real pain. I’d lost pretty much all use of both my arms from the shoulder down. He walked me straight down to A&E where we sat for 3 hours and yet another doctor told me it was a muscle strain and nothing more.

I went back to my GP surgery a week later and fortunately I saw a different doctor, someone I will always be incredibly grateful to. She took the time to look at my hands and listen to what I was telling her. When she looked my hands she asked me how long I’d had ‘trigger finger’ - the first joint on my little finger was hyperextended beyond its normal range.

I immediately panicked as she made an urgent referral to a rheumatologist. By December I was having blood tests and X-ray but no one really wanted to discuss possible diagnosis. On 4 Feb 2015 (the day after my 30th Birthday) I was diagnosed with RA. I remember beforehand praying that it was something infectious…not RA - anything but that. 6 years on, I’m relatively stable in terms of decease activity but my life is forever changed.

How R.A. affects my everyday life

I try, as much as possible not to tell people unless it’s necessary because people tend to treat you differently once they know. I still work full time and try to maintain my social life but that’s what has suffered particularly during covid- 19.

What living with R.A. means to me

I have a love-hate relationship with my RA - I’m happy as long as I can quantify my pain - for example if I’ve been moving boxes all day and my knees hurt then it makes sense - it’s when it doesn’t make sense that I feel frustrated. But I have friend and family that support me entirely and an excellent medical team. I am lucky in many ways , my reality just is what I expected it to be growing up - but that’s life.

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