Married life was great. New job was great. My health - mmm, not so great.
It was just months after getting my new job that I first had 'flu', well that's what I though it was and maybe it was just that. I was in bed for 48 hours or so. Once my head had started to clear, I was left with very painful wrists and ankles. This immediately worried me. My sister some 3 years younger had been unwell for some years with ME following 2 bouts of glandular fever in her teens. This had left her with very painful wrists, so much so that she was struggling to keep her job (she was also an occupational therapist), for her they were now querying whether she had rheumatoid arthritis. I tried very hard not to think about this and got my home group of plenty of friends praying for me to be made well again.
I had a couple of weeks off work and was well enough to go back, though I knew I wasn't quite right. My GP was great and I started taking anti-inflammatory pills I was also referred on to a rheumatologist. The pain didn't get any worse and it seemed that as long as I didn't do too much I was okay. However by the Summer of '97, still no diagnosis had been made, I had changed consultants as the first one I felt really didn't believe that there was anything wrong with me! I had splints to wear at work and they were very understanding about me not doing any heavy lifting, etc (this is what they would have told any of their patients!).
It must have been around August 97 that I had a major problem, fortunately I had started seeing a fab consultant who immediately diagnosed me with serum negative rheumatoid arthritis (RA)(basically means the rheumatoid factor in your blood does not show up!). I got very low and all my joints became affected, walking round the supermarket was too much too do. I was off work for around 3 months. The silly thing about this horrible disease is that if I just rest and stay still, I get relief from pain, however it makes my joints seize up even more and therefore makes any movement even more painful. Learning how to cope with this was horrible. I felt that I couldn't talk to my mum about it as she was very concerned about my sister who was by this time living in Cyprus and pregnant with their first grandchild.
I eventually got onto a drug regime that seemed to have some effect on me and got back to work, though it has to be said the NHS was awful when it came to agreeing with stuff through occupational health. I was very depressed - one unfortunate side effect from my job was that I only saw people with RA that had produced awful disfigurements and most of them were very elderly.