The story of an illnessBMJ 1994; 309 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6966.1448 (Published 26 November 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1448
Fourteen years ago I was diagnosed as having rheumatoid arthritis. Initially I was devastated, but life went on. I resisted going on to second line drugs for as long as possible—as if that step would give the illness a more permanent reality—but eventually I agreed to take penicillamine. The effects of this were initially gratifying, but after a couple of years I had an acute flare up with multiple joint involvement, during which I lay awake in pain at night and lost weight dramatically. My consultant prescribed injectable steroids as a short term measure. This produced a dramatic response with the result that I was soon back to playing sport and leading a normal life. The trouble was that I could not come off the steroids without becoming markedly disabled again.
Over the years my illness settled into a form where only one joint at a time was seriously involved, but if it was a foot I could not walk and if it was a wrist I could not dress or wash myself without help. Local steroid injections gave only temporary relief. As I saw it, I either continued to take steroids or gave up my job and a normal life. I kept on with the steroids. I tried many other drugs, but none enabled me to withdraw the steroids. Then I developed dangerously high blood pressure. I started taking an antihypertensive …
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