If you had told me at 18 that I’d be sitting here as a 40-year-old man writing about my experiences with chronic back pain I wouldn’t have believed you.
However, when I was in my mid-twenties I discovered I had developed two fractures in my lower spine that made it impossible for me to run or play football anymore. And for a young athletic guy who had always been fit and healthy and lived for his Saturday afternoons on the football pitch this was a real hammer blow. So much so that when I was offered the option of spinal fusion surgery to try and fix it about a year after my problem first reared its ugly head, I jumped at it.
I am 42 yrs old and have been told I have 4 different forms of arthritis. I was first told this at the age of 26 and the response I have had off people has been hard as they say "you can't have it at your age". As I try and point out any one can have arthritis at any age from baby to the elderly. At times it's hard to cope with not just the pain but people's reactions if living with the pain was not hard enough. What I would like to say is no matter what reactions you may get from people don't let it worry or get you down just put a smile on your face and carry on as this is the most important thing to do and not to think about others. I was recently admitted to hospital for urgent brain surgery and I will say the staff on the ward were excellent in respect of my arthritis and how everyday things are harder for me so it just goes to show not all people are the same. Also a lot of people are now understanding things happen. No matter what your age is you can have arthritis so keep your head held high and smile.
What on earth is wrong with me?
I had had joint problems for many years, tendon problems and more recently, eye dryness, blurred vision, dry nose, dry ears, periods of extreme fatigue, and even more recently, very dry skin and genitals. Of course, I had been to see my GP and various specialists over time, but usually just with one or two of these symptoms. IBS and reflux were also on the agenda. The doctors were always kind, considerate and sympathetic, but I always felt like a heart-sink patient and began to become extremely anxious about seeking advice.
I had been told I was depressed, and possibly, I was – not surprising really, as I was struggling with getting through each day. And I began to feel my illness was ‘all in the mind’. I also developed some lung problems in that time – shown on a CT as bronchiectasis, and then asthma. Not surprising, I also acquired the label of ‘anxious patient’.