Croydon’s National Rheumatoid Arthritis group helps me to live my life to the full

By - Wednesday 1st August, 2018

Diagnosed with the illness at thirteen, I went along to learn from the experiences of others

Photo public domain.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a complex and serious systemic autoimmune condition. The immune system attacks joint tissue causing inflammation, stiffness, pain and extreme fatigue. Uncontrolled RA can cause premature mortality. For sufferers, it’s a chronic disease which chiefly impacts upon joints but can also affect other organs such as the heart, eyes and lungs.

It affects 400,000 adults in the UK and is more common in women than men. Although many see arthritis as an older person’s condition, 15,000 children in the UK have juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). I became one of those 15,000 in 2010, when at the age of thirteen, I was diagnosed with JIA.

Now twenty-one, having just graduated, I recently realised that the only other person I know with RA is my uncle. For this reason, I wanted to reach out within the arthritis community to find others with similar experiences to mine – or perhaps with completely different ones – but experiences I could learn from and relate to, either way. I contacted the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society for help and found the organisation extremely useful.

From the moment I walked in, the group was friendly and helpful

Using the helpline email which made contacting them outside working hours easy, I gained a prompt response pointing me towards a social media platform called Health Unlocked where I found information on my local Croydon NRAS group. Over the last twelve years, forty different groups have been set up across the UK, with the Croydon group founded in July 2016.

At my first meeting, the group was friendly and welcoming from the moment I walked in. Being in an environment where open conversation was encouraged, I felt very comfortable talking about my experiences with rheumatoid arthritis. Although I had initially attended to speak to others with the same condition as me, I quickly realised that the benefits of being able to listen to the guest speaker, a doctor specialising in rheumatoid arthritis, were vast. From this visit, I realised that learning to understand RA and how to cope with it are important to knowing how it impacts my life.

As I was diagnosed at a young age, it can sometimes be hard to know how RA has changed my development, so when attending doctor’s appointments, I often forget to ask everything I had intended. Having a doctor who was open and willing to share information was incredibly useful and I intend on continuing to grow my knowledge through these meetings.

A good support network is key when living with illness like rheumatoid arthritis

The meetings often have guest speakers who share their knowledge to help the group cope with our condition more easily. Along with doctors, speakers have also been able to help with exercise routines and nutritional information as these are important for maintaining control over inflammation and achieving a healthy lifestyle.

I would highly recommend the group to anyone from Croydon looking to learn more about RA for themselves, or family members, or even for friends. The benefits of taking part in these activities could reach much further than first expected and are always worth trying once. If you are someone or know someone with RA, then I suggest reaching out and seeing what support there is because a good support network is always going to be key when living with illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis. Attending just one meeting has already helped me in feeling more supported and understood, which I think is something everyone should feel.

The Croydon NRAS Group meets several times a year at the Purley United Reform Church at 7 pm. Future meetings will be held on Thursday 13th September, Thursday 25th October 25th and Thursday 6th December.

To find out what help and support the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) can offer or more information on the Croydon NRAS Group, please contact NRAS on 01628 823 524, or click here.

Ellie Booth

Ellie Booth

I’ve just graduated from Brunel University having studied Economics and Management and will be starting as a Trainee Accountant in September studying towards my ACA CTA qualifications. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2010 and use this to push me forward, driving me to reach my goals. I want to expand my knowledge of RA in order to help those around me understand the condition as well as use this knowledge to lead a healthy lifestyle as I go in to the working world.

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  • Anne Giles

    Good luck!