'˜It'll be with me for the rest of my life'
Think of arthritis and it conjures up images of older people.
But Ellie Price was just 27 when she was diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis last year.
It’s a condition which will affect her in one way or another for the rest of her life.
Ellie, from Fareham, now hopes to raise awareness about the condition and connect with other young people also suffering with it.
But how did she end up on this rollercoaster journey in the first place?
‘I was on my way back from my friend’s where I had gone to stay for the weekend,’ says Ellie, now 28.
‘It was quite a long drive.
‘When we got out at the services, my leg was a bit sore. I thought maybe it was just because we had been for a bike ride the day before.
‘I went back to work and each day it got worse.’
At first, doctors told Ellie they didn’t know what it was, but that she had probably just strained it and she was prescribed some anti-inflammatories - which didn’t work.
‘I was really struggling, so I paid for a private pyhsio to try and get to the bottom of what was going on. But he didn’t know either.
‘He told me to do some cycling for two weeks and if that didn’t work, then he would refer me to someone else.’
Ellie was referred back to her GP and then to an NHS physio.
She eventually had an MRI scan which found a lot of swelling and she was referred to rheumatology. Ellie was given some painkillers so she could walk on it again.
‘I turns out that what I had done was not use it and rested it – but that’s what made it so bad,’ she adds.
In October, Ellie was diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis. She found out it had spread to both her knees, both ankles and her jaw.
‘I was by myself when I found out,’ she adds.
‘I thought I could handle whatever they would say. It felt a bit like I wasn’t really hearing or seeing anything they were saying.’
Ellie was able to have steroid injections in both her knees, which made a huge difference.
‘I took medication twice a day - the highest I could take. It was a case of letting that kick in - it takes 12 weeks to start working.
‘That took me to January when I was referred for physio because I was struggling to get active again. I had lost so much muscle.
‘It’s been a case of day-by-day and week-by-week seeing how it’s going.’
Now Ellie has been discharged by her physio.
‘The only problem I have now is the fatigue. That’s my issue to deal with.
‘It’s really hard to sum it all up because it’s been so hard. It’s been really difficult adjusting to the fact that you have now got something that is going to be with you for the rest of your life.
‘It’s your own body attacking itself. There’s not a lot you can do about it apart from manage it.
‘You can have periods of time when you are doing really well. You think it’s fantastic and you feel in control and then you falter and it feels like one step forward, two steps back.
‘All the way through the journey to diagnosis, I had lots of time off work. I couldn’t do my job properly.
‘During that time you just feel horrific. You think, what is the point? I would just sleep all day.’
Ellie’s boyfriend, Liam Geoghegan, also 28, has been a lifeline.
‘He has been incredible,’ she says.
‘Things like cooking when I am just too tired to do it. If it was up to me, I would just have a bowl of cereal because I can’t face cooking.
‘He helps out around the house. When it was at its worst, he was going food shopping and driving me places because I couldn’t drive. He was a bit like a full-time carer.
‘My parents have been really supportive as well.’
Now Ellie is hoping that she can raise awareness to help other young people. She has started a blog to update people on her illness.
‘When I first found out I had this, there was nothing on the internet about people my age that I could relate to,’ she says.
‘I think it’s important for people to know that it affects you mentally and physically. ‘
But Ellie is now looking on the positive side.
‘Now I think ‘‘what’s the worst that can happen?’’ I know that I can pull myself out of it again. I know how it feels when I get a bit worn out andneed to stop and have a rest.
‘I don’t beat myself up about it any more. I have a positive outlook on it. I appreciate the things that I can do.
‘Like going for a nice walk or going to the gym when I feel I can. I know there will be days when I can’t do it, so I make the most of it when I can.’
According to information from Arthritis Research UK, inflammatory arthritis is a term used to describe a group of conditions which affect your immune system.
This means that your body’s defence system starts attacking your own tissues instead of germs, viruses and other foreign substances, which can cause pain, stiffness and joint damage.
They’re also known as autoimmune diseases.
Visit arthritisuk.org for more information.