A single parent's view

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I was 18 when I first discovered psoriasis in my scalp, but, after treatment, this was not really a problem. About a year later three of my toes became swollen and were so painful that it was difficult to put any weight on them. My GP thought I had an infection and treated me with antibiotics. The pain and swelling disappeared from two of the toes, but the third remained the same. I was referred to a local hospital where I had blood tests and X-rays. I was told that they couldn't find anything wrong and, although still in pain, I felt I had to accept this.

Over the years I suffered with back pain and my GP decided to refer me for physiotherapy. Before I could get an appointment I became pregnant. During the first month of my pregnancy my left knee became very swollen and stiff, though not painful. I visited my doctor who informed me that she thought I was suffering from arthritis. Apparently, when the tests had been done on my toes many years before the hospital had diagnosed arthritis, but had never bothered to tell me!

I was referred to a rheumatologist and after tests was informed that I probably had psoriatic arthritis and that my still badly swollen knee would go down of its own accord. If it continued to cause me problems I was told to return to my GP to have it aspirated.

I moved house and after registering with my new GP was referred to the rheumatology department at the local hospital. There my knee was aspirated but while I was still pregnant no X-rays could be taken. By now my knee had become painful and I could no longer bend down.

After my baby was born I had a number of X-rays and a CT scan on my spine. I was diagnosed as having ankylosing spondilitis? and my psoriatic arthritis was finally confirmed after nine years.

Five months after the definite diagnosis my arthritis began to escalate at an alarming speed. Some days I could hardly move and coping with a baby on my own was a great struggle. I couldn't do the everyday things people take for granted. My wrists and fingers were affected; I couldn't cope in the kitchen or walk very far; life was a nightmare. The rheumatologist had said that psoriatic arthritis would only affect one or two joints - how wrong could he be!

Eight affected joints later, I sat in the consultant’s room and wept, I couldn't take any more. I was given steroids, with no warning of any side effects, and told that it was them or be admitted to hospital.

As a single parent living with psoriatic arthritis is difficult, not just for me but for my daughter too. It is hard on her when I have to be admitted to hospital as she has to be uprooted and go to stay with friends. But it is my daughter that gives me the courage to keep going. When I feel I can't get out of bed, I know I have to because she needs me, otherwise I get days when I wouldn't even try. Obviously you get days when you are down, but doesn't everybody. I spent time coming to terms with the disease but now I want to get on with my life and I refuse to let PsA get the better of me!

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