Living With A Chronic Illness: Danni’s Story

Background

From a young age, Danielle McLachlan was told by doctors that her aches and pains were just signs of ‘growing pains’ and that eventually they would pass. Skip forward a few years to when Danni turned 13 and she was finally given a diagnosis. Rheumatoid Arthritis.

A long term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in joints. The exact symptoms that Danni experienced. A statistic shows that between one and three per cent of adults are diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

According to the NHS website, “Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis quickly is important, because early treatment can prevent it getting worse and reduce the risk of joint damage.”

Danni first started getting pains in her right knee, which soon spread to all of her joints. The pain got so bad at times that she would become immobile for long periods of time. Now I’m certainly not a doctor, but that doesn’t sound like growing pains.

To further my point, the NHS website states: “growing pains are usually; an aching or throbbing in both legs; in the muscles, not the joints; and in the evening or night-time (and goes away by morning). You should see a GP if; the pain is only in one leg; the pain is in a joint, such as their knees; and the pain is bad enough to stop your child walking.”

Danni said: “The pain and swelling made me almost immobile – before I knew it my parents were having to lift me in and out of bed, assist me to the bathroom and dress me.

“I remember feeling so confused and distressed at what was happening. I was so ill I lost almost 3 stone within a couple of months I was so weak. Eventually the doctors referred me to York hill hospital and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and put on monthly steroid drips for years. It was strange being diagnosed with arthritis I didn’t know much about it only that I thought it was an “old person’s disease”.  Being so young, immobile and seeing your body change because of arthritis and medication really began to affect me mentally and my arthritis has also given me mental health issues.”

All the boxes seem to be checked. So why did it take one year for doctors to come up with a diagnosis?

Living With A Chronic Illness

An illness like Danni’s is bound to be partnered with countless amounts of medication which can really take a toll on someone’s mental health.

“I’m currently injecting myself with methotrexate weekly and I go to the hospital for a monthly tocilizumab infusion. My medication controls my arthritis, and I can live a somewhat normal and fulfilling life.

“Being in your 20s with rheumatoid arthritis is a struggle as I’m often comparing myself to other able-bodied people my age and I feel like a failure as I’m not being as productive or where I want to be in life. These moments of weaknesses have made me want to disappear as the physical pain can be so overbearing and the thought of a future can make me feel so anxious and stressed.

“There are days where I struggle to get out of bed or lift my arms so brushing my hair or lifting cutlery can be impossible. It can make me feel like a burden as I am often relying on family members to help me with housework or open jars for me. Sometimes it feels like I’ve climbed a mountain after climbing a few stairs and this makes me feel so defeated and weak.”

Being a young person in todays climate is already hard enough, but add a chronic illness into the mix and you could easily see someone rapidly decline, but not Danni.

Danni has become an advocate for those suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis and wants to raise as much awareness for this chronic illness as possible and to spread the word that this doesn’t just happen to ‘old people’.

She has recently started an Instagram account to help her spread knowledge on what life is really like as a young person with arthritis. Danni will often share raw photos of hospital life and what it’s like to wake up with immense pains.

“I have been lucky to connect with other people with my condition on Instagram, making me feel more understood and less isolated.”

One Instagram post says: “Before creating this account I was hesitating because I didn’t want to come across as attention-seeking. But I’m passionate about challenging the myth that arthritis stereotypically only affects the older generation. On Monday, I was at the hospital for my first surgical biopsy on my right jaw for my bad TMJ. Due to my TMJ, I was unable to have the breathing tube through my mouth and down my windpipe, so instead, a tube was inserted through my nose to the back of my throat before I was knocked out.

“This is the start of my journey to hopefully living a better life. Though, I’ve been emotional and angry at myself. If only I took my arthritis more seriously growing up. Like, taking my medications regularly, being more educated and being less focused on not being judged for my disability. Then maybe I could be avoiding joint replacement?”

“This arthritis is with me forever. I’m always going to have bad flare ups. It’s about time I come to terms with it.”

It is clear to see that Danni is determined to not let her arthritis ruin her life. As difficult as it may be, life is too short to wither away and let your chronic illness/disease take over. This may just be one person’s story, but there are plenty others out there just like Danni. More people need to learn that ‘arthritis’ is not an umbrella term and it can affect anyone. Young or old.

Tips On Dealing With Life After A Diagnosis

“When you have arthritis or struggle with any chronic illness, it’s important to be your own advocate.”

  1. Find a medication that works for you. No one better understands your own body more than you do.
  2. Self-care and self-love are crucial.
  3. Rest and recuperate! Listen to your body.
  4. If you find yourself unable to move or complete tasks remember that tomorrow is a new day. We are not defined on our productivity levels.
  5. Eat healthy and move your body to the best of your ability.

Further Information

To follow Danni’s journey, you can follow her Instagram: @danielleandarthritis

For more information on Rheumatoid Arthritis, you can visit the below websites!

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