Mary’s story

"Gnarled female hands were the norm for me when I was a child. I did not know that they were part of a medical condition that I was to inherit. Both my grandmothers had knotty, uncomfortable hands yet both women worked uncomplainingly. My mother played beautiful Chopin and Beethoven on the piano, stretching her arthritic fingers an octave or more.

My time came when I was 45 years old. The first indication was a strange clicking sensation in one finger then another. Over the next 10 years the unmistakable Heberden's nodes of osteoarthritis appeared. Further down the track my feet began to manifest the same misshapen form. Both hands and feet developed stiffness on top of deformity. Some loss of function, or at least reduced function, then began to challenge me

As I have always loved and lived an active, outdoors life, I have not been deterred, until a spinal condition was added to the skeletal scene in 2011 – spinal stenosis and a disc problem.

All in all I had to accept that I was diagnosed with degenerative processes. Not so acceptable when one has a rural existence and when manual activity is my daily choice and routine

I have had foot and spinal surgery. I am on anti-inflammatory medication. It provides some relief, but I am constantly reminded of that term – ‘degenerative’. However, I intend to be active, to ride my horses, prune my roses, run with the dog and clean my own gutters for as long as I can.

I have strong links to science and have always been interested in how to manage my own health. Yet, it would be wonderful if medical research could deliver a means to halt the progress, if not to reverse, my arthritis. There are regular headlines about the huge economic impact of arthritic conditions on the workforce. Perhaps there will be greater incentive for research into non-surgical, non-drug means of relief, if not of cure for conditions like mine."