Arthritis affects some women in the prime of their lives

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      Pain has taken much away from Eileen Davidson.

      “A lot of things that I used to love to do, like go out dancing and wear high heels, I definitely cannot do now,” she said in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight.

      The Burnaby woman was 29 when she was diagnosed with arthritis, a disorder that affects joints and connective tissues.

      “I had to say goodbye to my 10-year-long career as an aesthetician,” Davidson related. She cannot work anymore and has been on disability since.

      Her son Jacob was two at the time, and for a single mother in chronic pain, raising a young child was more challenging. “It’s very hard, mostly with the fatigue. I just don’t have much energy,” Davidson said.

      Dating became difficult as well, with potential partners losing interest upon learning of her health condition.

      Arthritis is the general term that describes a multitude of disorders that are characterized by joint inflammation and pain. According to the Arthritis Society, it is the most prevalent chronic health problem in Canada.

      More than six million Canadians live with arthritis. That’s one in five. Arthritis was estimated to have cost the Canadian economy about $6.4 billion in 2000.

      According to a 2010 paper by a group that included the Public Health Agency of Canada, the biggest impact—amounting to $4.3 billion—was due to lost productivity from long-term disability and death. Direct costs of $2.1 billion involved health-care expenditures.

      More women than men are affected by the disorder, a situation that the Arthritis Society wants to highlight, especially this month. September is arthritis-awareness month in Canada, and according to Christine Basque, executive director of the organization’s B.C. and Yukon division, about 60 percent of sufferers are women.

      “It often affects women in the prime of their lives, when they’re busy working and raising families,” Basque told the Straight by phone.

      In Davidson’s case, she was diagnosed in 2015 with rheumatoid arthritis, which results from the immune system attacking a person’s body tissues. A year later, she was also found to have developed osteoarthritis, which is the breakdown of cartilage that cushions the ends of bones. To make things even worse, Davidson tested positive in 2017 for fibromyalgia, a condition marked by widespread muscle pain.

      That same year, Davidson started her now popular blog

      “I remember particularly when I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I felt very, very alone,” Davidson recalled. “I didn’t really understand what I was going through, and I didn’t know how to communicate what I was going through. So writing was very cathartic to me.”

      Davidson turned 33 in January this year, and despite the constant pain, she is not about to give up on life.

      “Living with chronic illness has taught me self-awareness, discipline, and resilience,” she said. “Chronic illness brought out a strength in me I never knew existed yet needed. It taught me how to fight, set goals and achieve them.”

      Although pain has caused her a lot of hurt, it also gave her a focus.

      “Pain, in some ways, gave me a purpose,” Davidson said. “Through my struggles with pain, I found my voice and my purpose. I found myself. Arthritis is [both] my villain and my blessing in disguise. If I am going to be the sick girl, I might as well kick ass at it.”

      The Arthritis Society is hosting an educational webinar and live event on September 21.