Cutting Loose from Arthritis
By Stephanie Knowles
Nineteen and an ambitious musical theatre student, I noticed horrific black and purple swelling in my knuckle joints. At first, I put this down to dancing injuries. (We often had to do one handed cartwheels from the corner.) But the pain in my joints got progressively worse. There followed countless doctor’s appointments, painkillers, physio, blood tests, x-rays, and ultrasounds. Eventually, two days after my twentieth birthday, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in my hands, wrists and feet. Although this may seem devastating news, I was relieved to have a diagnosis after nine months of uncertainty and worry.
Are you aware of RA?
RA is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints causing pain and inflammation
- Around 400,000 adults have Rheumatoid Arthritis in the UK
- It often starts when a person is between 40 and 50 years old
- Women are three times more likely to be affected than men
Remission is possible!
Like my white blood cell count, managing my condition has had its highs and lows. However, I pursued my passion for performing and have experienced working abroad and in pantomime. Now settled back home and in remission, I’m continuing my love for theatre as a new member of The Bohemians - one of Edinburgh’s notable amateur musical companies- currently rehearsing ‘Footloose’.
How does a chronic condition affect a work-life balance?
I started a new job as Front of House Manager at Multiply Agency and joined the Bohs around the same time. My big concern was sorting the Cowboys from the Creatives as I met a hundred new personalities. Reassuringly, like a theatre, Multiply has a bar in the basement!
The warm welcome I received at Multiply quickly made me feel part of the team and it’s a great team to be part of. Having been only a short time at Multiply, I’m touched by the agency’s readiness to book tickets to see my show.
In relation to my day to day work routine and my commitment to twice-weekly rehearsals, the challenge is, predictably, to strike a balance between work, exercise and rest. When I’m in pain and feeling fatigued, being active is the last thing on my mind. However, research shows that low-impact exercise helps to relieve Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms. I do set aside rest days (aka sofa days) which I use to binge-watch the latest series on Netflix - current favourites being ‘Friends’ and ‘Orphan Black’. My regular health checks and the effective monitoring of my long-term medication allow me to have a positive outlook on managing my condition and my future.
If you’re a fan of musicals and want to see me cut loose in Footloose, join the Multitude on Thursday 15 March. Checked shirt, jeans and cowboy boots optional!
Footloose will be performed at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh 14-17 March 2018.
Click here to buy tickets – http://bohemians.org.uk/buy-tickets/