My name is Ashley and I am 28 years old. I was diagnosed in 2014 with Psoriatic Arthritis and in 2017 with Fibromyalgia. I’ve had Psoriasis since I was about 10 years old, but I was never warned by my doctor’s that 30% of people who have Psoriasis would develop Psoriatic Arthritis. I started to have pain and swelling in my early 20s, but I chalked most of it up to having a physically demanding job. I was 23, I had just moved in with my boyfriend and I was in my last year of my Master’s degree. The sign that things were really not right in my body began when my toes swelled and started to look like sausages and the swelling would not go away with ice or medication. I pushed back on my doctor, who told me that I was just wearing bad shoes, and demanded that she X-ray my feet. I knew that something was wrong in my body, but I did not know what yet. When she got the X-rays back, she saw the signs of arthritis and knowing that I had Psoriasis, referred me to a Rheumatologist immediately. It took several months before I had an appointment to see the Rheumatologist for the first time and my body quickly deteriorated. I started to have a lot of swelling in my toes and fingers. I had pain in my knees, my spine, and my neck that never seemed to lessen. I finally saw a Rheumatologist and began cycling through treatments and medications, trying to find something that worked for me. I tried anti-inflammatories and DMARDs, like Methotrexate and Leflunomide. I learned to self-inject my medications. My pain only got worse. I started having difficulty walking and going up and down the stairs. I had trouble managing working and going to school, with the constant pain that I was in. I started using a cane and relying on assistive devices to move around.
I started my first biologic in 2016 – Humira. I was so excited, because I thought that this would be the treatment that I needed. I thought it would be a miracle drug for me and I would have my life back to the way it was before. Even though Humira was the start of a cycle of biologics, I did not give up. In 2015, I finished my Masters’ of Information Science degree at the University of Toronto.
In 2017, I married the love of my life. There were times when my pain and my treatments failing brought me down, but he has always been hopeful that things would get better. He’s stayed with me through never-ending doctor’s appointments and constantly changing medications.
In 2018, I started Cosentyx. It wasn’t a miracle drug, but my pain reduced and my swelling was almost gone. In the same year, I started getting nerve block injections in my trigger points. I was able to ditch my cane and start moving on my own again. Later that year, I started a job that I love, in my field and using my degree. I love to travel and have taken two Caribbean cruises. This year, I climbed to the top of the High Temple of Lamanai in Belize, which I never would have been able to do a year ago. I love the theatre and go to the Stratford festival every year. At home, I love to cuddle with my three cats – Rescue, Celes, and Mr. Mittens. I know that I have limits in what I can do in a day and I use my rest time to snuggle the cats and spend time with my husband. Having arthritis has made me realize how important it is to listen to your body and take care of yourself. When you know that there is something wrong, you need to advocate for yourself, even if your doctor or your family do not understand. And most importantly be kind to yourself and to everyone around you. We all need to rest and take time for ourselves – some of us more than others.
This story is a part of an ongoing feature on Young Adults, as part of our Arthritis Awareness Month. Read more stories here.