Bill Brookes, 40, was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis at 26, but his psoriasis began when he was 7, and the intensity increased for the next 20 years. His arthritis started in his knees when he was a teenager. By time he was 26, it had spread to joints all over his body.
When I was around 26, my symptoms started to get a lot worse. My knees would swell and I was in a lot of pain. My GP would drain the knee and inject me with cortisone. This would relieve the symptoms but the swelling would soon come back. I was prescribed Methotrexate and sent to a dermatologist to treat the psoriasis. UV treatment cleared up most of the patches on my body.
The methotrexate didn’t seem to have much impact on the arthritis. It now was in my toes, the bones in my feet, ankles and tendons. It was in my fingers, shoulders, neck and even in my jaw. I was forced to take more and more time off work. When my symptoms got really bad I would be admitted to the hospital for seven to 10 days. I eventually retired on medical grounds. This was the low point of my illness. I was at home all day and some days I couldn’t get down the stairs in the morning. I was in constant pain and constantly tired.
It was at this point that we decided to move to France. [It wasn’t for medical reasons.] I went to a GP who immediately sent me to a specialist. The consultant was surprised I had not been offered Enbrel. I explained that it hadn’t been approved for my illness due to the cost. There were no such cost issues in France … and I was soon starting out on Enbrel.
Within weeks I was noticing an improvement. The pain was much less and the swelling was down. I had less stiffness and could walk without sticks. Everything that had been affected eased up and after a few months I felt great. Obviously, I was left with quite a lot of bone and joint damage but I wasn’t having flares. I found that I was able to live a mainly pain-free life. I could now walk my dogs again, go swimming and generally live a normal life.
I have been in France now for six years and my life has changed dramatically. My friends who know me only from France find it hard to believe that I could barely walk a few years ago! The Enbrel has been like a miracle drug for me and at times it made me feel like I was completely cured. I am eternally grateful to the French healthcare system for prescribing me Enbrel and I have learned to never take anything for granted.
A word of encouragement: The right medicine can help you live relatively pain free.