‘Things CAN get better’: Help for arthritis sufferers

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 June 2015

Mandy Whiffen, Group Coordinator Dana Beckingham and Joanne Howe.

Mandy Whiffen, Group Coordinator Dana Beckingham and Joanne Howe.

Archant

“PEOPLE think a diagnosis is the end of the world – but we like to show them there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

These are the words of Dana Beckingham, a volunteer co-ordinator at the Weston branch of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) and a sufferer of the autoimmune disease herself.

Dana, aged 40, helped to establish the group, which meets monthly in a room at Asda in Phillips Road, almost five years ago. Its aim is to offer support and advice to rheumatoid arthritis sufferers and it held a tea party on Tuesday to raise awareness of Rheumatoid Arthritis Week, which began on Monday.

Dana said: “We often have specialists and rheumatologists at our meetings, who give tips and hints about managing the condition and getting financial and emotional support.

“Our last speech was from a sports and activities officer who gave us help on staying active and keeping fit.

“Another way the group helps people is through hosting hydrotherapy sessions where we complete exercises which have been approved by physiotherapists.”

One of the myths Dana is keen to dispel is that rheumatoid arthritis, which causes the immune system to attack joint tissue and leads to inflammation, stiffness, pain and fatigue, is only something which older people suffer from.

Dana was diagnosed with the condition aged just 23, and fellow group member Sandra Atwood learned she was a sufferer at age 33.

Sandra, who has two young children, told the Mercury: “Until I was diagnosed, I certainly thought it was an old person’s disease.

“I have had to totally change my lifestyle. But one of the best things about the group is the support it offers to partners and family members, as it can be hard explaining how you feel to those who don’t suffer from it.

“It’s nice to talk to other people who are experiencing the same things as you. It makes you realise things can get better and there is still a life there for you to live.”

For more information about the group, contact Dana on 01934 
620583.

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