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I was seventeen

I was seventeen and had been experiencing pain in my legs for a while, usually on my way to catch the school bus in the morning. I put it down to being unfit and dismissed it. As far as I was concerned my only health problem was psoriasis, which I had suffered with since childhood. That September I did a part time job during half-term, which entailed kneeling in damp soil. After the first day my knee was swollen and very painful - I didn't manage a second day.

I visited my GP as the swelling and pain continued, I felt completely drained and had no energy. The doctor told me that my knee was merely strained, but I was very anaemic and should take iron tablets. My parents put me on a strict diet full of vitamins. liver and red meat to try and boost my energy.

I couldn't understand what was wrong with me and I was frightened. In desperation I went privately to see a doctor. He performed various blood tests and gave me anti-inflamatory tablets for my knee, which was by now looking like a football! I continued to see the same doctor as an NHS patient and also attended a skin clinic for psoriasis treatment.

At the clinic I had more extensive blood tests and was given a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis, at last I was getting somewhere!

In contrast to the excellent care I received from the clinic, my other doctor saw fit to tell me that there was really nothing wrong with me. He believed that I was making it all up just to get attention! He spoke separately to my mother and accused her of being an over anxious parent. That day I left the doctor's surgery in tears and vowed never to return.

On my first visit to a new doctor he questioned why I was attending a blood clinic, when I had arthritis? I was duly sent to see a rheumatologist. From then on things began to improve and I only have to visit the rheumatologist every six months now. I still have psoriasis and bad days with my joints, but nearly ten years on I feel so much better than I did.

I am lucky to have an understanding and supportive family. Psoriatic arthritis doesn't affect my life tremendously now, I'm very mobile and try to swim twice a week. I also play the piano, but on bad days have difficulty using my fingers properly. I find that my main problem is the overwhelming tiredness I normally feel. I work full time which I sometimes find quite a struggle. Holidays are a mixed blessing, although I enjoy myself, I could usually do with another one to get over it!

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