Introducing Holly Johnson: A Young Mom with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Patient Expert

"You have no medical reason to be having any symptoms."

Hi, my name is Holly. I am 28 years old; I've been married for almost 10 years to my high school sweetheart and we have two very active boys. I also have severe rheumatoid arthritis.

I first became ill when I was 23, after the birth of my second son. The pain came before the swelling and left no indication of rheumatoid arthritis. I spent two years of my life in and out of the hospital and with various neurologists who told me they thought I was in the early stages of multiple sclerosis.

Free Spirit Shackled by Joint Pain

I had always been a very free spirit, so full of life and energy. Within those two years, I had become depressed and withdrawn. I couldn't even get out of bed. I had no relationship with my friends, family, or even my kids.

After a while the doctors said I did not have multiple sclerosis. They said I had a chemical imbalance, prescribed me antidepressants and sent me   home. But the pain increased and I couldn't dress myself or feed myself. I was 25 years old and completely dependent on others.

I will never forget one of my appointments with my primary physician. I had come in for a follow-up appointment and I was sitting on the table when my doctor came in and pulled up a chair. She said, "Holly, you have no medical reason to be having any symptoms. All your tests are normal." Then she proceeded to ask me if I had a drug, alcohol problem, or mental condition that I should see a therapist for. I was devastated. Not only did I feel so alone, I felt hopeless as well. A month later I was swollen from head to toe. I was completely unable to use my hands and barely able to walk. My grandpa had convinced me to see the doctor one more time. My doctor walked in, took one look at me, and told me she was going to run one more test.

The Right Diagnosis was Devestating

The next month is still a blur to me. My doctor's office called to tell me they had set me up an appointment to see a rheumatologist. A week later I was talking to the rheumatologist about my symptoms . I had blood drawn and then I was sent home. When I finally got the call from the rheumatologist's office, I was expecting to be told nothing was wrong, but, this time, I was wrong.

"The test results indicate you have Rheumatoid Arthritis."

I fell to the floor. I was told I had an extremely high amount of inflammation in my body and needed to start treatment immediately. I don't think I stopped crying for months and still to this day there are rarely days I don't cry about it. I've never experienced remission, or a day without pain. My doctors think I have had this awful disease for about thirteen years. My doctors also think that if this disease had been caught earlier they would be able to control the inflammation, but I haven't found any medications or combination of medications that have worked for me yet.

It's very hard being so young and sick, knowing that this is such an aggressively progressive disease. And I miss the life I thought I was going to have. But this is the life I have been given and I am going to live it to the fullest, with or without the pain.

I have rheumatoid arthritis, but it doesn't have me

Holly Johnson will write each week about her experiences with Rheumatoiud Arthritis. Post your comments, ask her questions and find comfort and support from her and other members on the site!

See below to find more of Holly's posts:

_Have I lost hope yet?  _

RA and MY depression