Inspirational Woman! What a title! We all associate inspiration with something different – you might find someone inspirational that I don’t and vice versa. One thing I am grateful for is that I have several inspirational women I can call to mind, some well-known and some in my very own family.
So, what made me think I should contribute to this inspirational woman issue? Well, here’s my story.
At the age of 29, I started to get various pains in my body; actually, that’s not strictly true; as a child, I complained a lot about aches in my joints and my mum was assured by the GP that it was growing pains. By the age of 29, these pains were more frequent; I was working in the gym and started to struggle to lift my arm above my shoulder – not great as a fitness instructor!
Eventually, things got worse, I was in constant pain, and everything felt tender. I went to my GP, and she put me on a trial for some medication, which ultimately meant I got to see the specialists quicker. By the time I was taking part in the trial I couldn’t hold cutlery, open a tin of soup or put my own socks on. Have you ever cried over a tin of soup? Sounds crazy doesn’t it, but it highlights the simple actions we take for granted.
I had a daughter; she was 5 at the time. I should have been helping her get dressed, instead she was having to help me put my socks on in the morning. Mum would come round to help me wash my hair.
Just before my 30th birthday, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I was totally unaware of this condition – I had heard of arthritis but didn’t realise there were so many different types! I had visions of disfigured joints and life as I knew it being over. It sounds strange now, but I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to wear high heels anymore (I love my heels)! Like any invisible illness to everyone else, you look fine! They don’t understand that you are struggling, the exhaustion, and you often feel as if people think you might be making it up.
However, I am nothing if not determined and wasn’t going to give up high heels without a fight. I found medication that worked really well for me, and for that I am so grateful. I went back to exercising to keep my joints supported and my weight healthy. In conjunction with the NHS and National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), I ran a local group for other people with arthritis with a focus on the positive; having come across so many negative forums online, I just needed to show people that there was another way. I walked 100KM, London to Brighton, to raise money for NRAS, possibly one of the hardest things I have done (but would crazily do it again)! I am working in the fitness industry again and trying to inspire women that things may change, but it doesn’t have to be the end. Oh, and I’m still wearing heels!