I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at age 19. I had just returned from France, where I had spent a rather idyllic year as a nanny and was beginning my first year of university at U.W.O. in London, Ontario. Although my sejour in France was a fabulous learning experience, I had sustained a horseback riding injury while there. ( More on that later.) As a follow-up to that injury and to prepare me for surgery, I started physiotherapy. My pain began in my second toe on my right foot, then jumped to my left foot. It seemed that I was fine while I was moving, but if I sat down I could not get back up. The physio wasn’t working. I decided that maybe I needed to go back to ballet classes to strengthen my core. I took two classes before I realized that my desire to dance could not overcome the severe pain in my feet. I could not go up on demi-pointe, and I could not jump and land without excruciating pain.
The pain was intensifying. My right great toe first joint fused itself. I began using a cane. On the bright side, it was a great “crutch” for starting conversations with boys at the bar. I always said that I had injured myself while horse backing in France. (It sounded so adventurous and it was true!) Sometimes, I offered that it was due to an injury I sustained while skiing in the Alps- (that would come later, but you would think I jinxed myself…). Walking became so onerous, particularly after sitting down for long periods of time that I began to plan my day to avoid having to walk excessively. I was having trouble getting off the bus and walking the short distance home after being in classes all day.
My doctor and physiotherapist were puzzled. How could a healthy teenager who was physically active go downhill so quickly? My family doctor ordered a blood test which showed that I had the Rheumatoid factor. I was referred to a specialist. Ingrained with “the show must go on” mentality, I figured that it was fortunate that I was diagnosed so early because then we could fix this annoyance and my life would continue along on it’s merry way. Surely with the right cocktail of drugs and regular activity I could live pain-free. The reality check has been quite different, but I have fought this disease every step of the way.