I thought I’d pulled a muscle in my shoulder but a shock diagnosis was to change my life forever…
By Eleanor Farr, 21, from Malpas, Cheshire
I muted the alarm and swung my legs out of bed.
I stretched my arms out and let out a big yawn when I felt a piercing pain in my left shoulder.
Must have slept funny, I thought.
I gave it a rub and got dressed before heading to campus for my first class of the day. By the time lessons had ended it was agony.
When the pain failed to budge after a few days I went to the doctors.
I thought then I might have dislocated it but when I began suffering with knee pain too, blood tests revealed an infection.
I was referred to a clinic and in January 2014 I was seen by a consultant.
‘You have rheumatoid arthritis,’ he said. ‘You’ll need to be on medication for the rest of your life to control it.’
I was stunned. I thought: Arthritis was something pensioners got wasn’t it? I was just 19.
It didn’t make sense, but medics explained it was an autoimmune condition which meant my body was attacking my healthy tissue.
It was devastating and when the arthritis spread to other parts of my body I felt completely out of control. I was becoming a granny overnight – and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
My joints felt like they were trapped in a vice and I quickly became bedridden, tortured by my inflamed joints.
Completely disabled, my mum had to dress me as I was unable to grip with my twisted, bloated fingers.
I couldn’t even use crutches to help me get around.
My ankles swelled out of recognition and I was in so much pain I could barely sleep.
‘I feel like an old lady,’ I wept to Mum as she helped me into my clothes one day.
She said: ‘Just concentrate on getting better.’
I sighed. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. I knew I had to stay positive but the writing was on the wall. There was no cure.
I was 20-years-old and supposed to be having the time of my life at university but I couldn’t even manage a shopping trip with my new friends.
The closest I got to a night out was looking at pictures on Facebook from the night before. I felt so lonely and left out.
Every drug I was given either didn’t work or left me with such bad side effects I’d end up in hospital for days.
I was so low.
Then in April last year medics decided to switch my medication and try me on a chemotherapy drug. I had nothing to lose.
The transformation was almost instant. The swelling eased and as my joints returned to normal, I gradually regained my independence.
It’s completely given me my life back. I feel like a normal 21-year-old again! I go shopping, I go out with my friends and earlier this month, I graduated from Leeds University with a degree in graphic design.
I couldn’t walk a year ago but now my health is close to perfect.
I’ll be on medication for the rest of my life but I’m just glad to be pain free. I may have the disease of an OAP but now I feel FAB!