Phil’s story

I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2006, as far as I can remember.

At the time I was doing what I do now, which is co-running a charity video production company, and living in South London with my (now late) wife, a dog and a parrot. I was living a fairly active life, playing badminton, sailing and trying to learn to ski.

My initial symptoms weren’t that bad, to be honest. There was some swelling in one finger that I went to the GP about, as it was impacting my work. It was on the little finger on my right hand, which, although it sounds minimal, was important in terms of the particular camera I was using at the time. Looking back though, there had been other shorter-term episodes where I had acute joint pain in hands and wrists, which I just put down to ongoing busy work.

I’m not currently on any medication, as my partner and I are trying for our second child. And being on no treatment is not working! I have quite a lot of pain, stiffness and am really tired at the moment, but hopefully this will only be for a short while. I’m taking NSAIDs and the occasional steroid injection to manage my symptoms.

My hobbies have definitely been impacted by having arthritis. I love sailing, but being able to manage ropes, helming and hanging on in a rough sea all require good grip strength. However, I find it’s about leaving a bit more time to do things and planning ahead.

Particularly if I’m single-handed on the boat, I’ll be more cautious about the forecast and plan accordingly.

I play badminton, although at the moment I’m finding my joints a bit too painful to play. I’m sure, compared to a similar person my age, I am slower in getting things done, or a bit more cautious about how I do it, but mostly it’s just a case of getting on with it and not fussing. I generally don’t speak about my arthritis, as I’m reasonably stubborn and hate the idea of being pushed around by something outside of my control. This can be to my detriment though, as sometimes I will just keep going and I’ll be exhausted the next day.

My advice to anyone who has been recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis is that your condition doesn’t define you. It’s very easy to let a diagnosis like this overshadow everything else, but it’s just a part of my life. Sometimes it will be a dominant part, but sometimes it will just be ticking along in the background.

I have also accepted that there will be a trade off. Although my symptoms and long-term effects can be managed, there are often side effects from the medications I use. There is no perfect solution, so I just accept this and crack on with life.