I was 19 years old when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
I had zero understanding of the disease. I didn’t know anyone with arthritis and I thought it only affected the elderly. I didn’t even want to tell people around me that I had arthritis. I didn’t want to feel like a burden. So initially, I hid my disease – just trying to battle it, while keeping it to myself.
At the time, I was going to school and working as a bank teller. I had to stand for eight hours every day. Four hours into my shift, my legs would swell so badly that I couldn’t hold myself up. Eventually, I had to tell my employer and request a stool. But I was really uncomfortable asking for help and didn’t want anyone to know what was going on.
I felt so alone. I met some individuals who were really understanding and other people who weren’t because, unlike other illnesses, arthritis is an invisible disease. You can’t see the pain. You can’t see the fatigue. And you can’t always see the disability.
To look at me, you’d never know that I literally can’t get out of bed some days. And at times, I just can’t process things. The brain fog and fatigue are so bad that it almost feels like I have a hangover that lasts all day. I can’t think clearly, am so tired and struggle to function.
“Arthritis research changed my life.”
– Nikki Bhatti, Arthritis Patient Advisory Board member
Comfort in Research
Eventually, I began to educate myself about my disease and that’s when I found Arthritis Research Canada. This amazing organization showed me that I wasn’t alone and that there is support, which is something I didn’t think existed when I was first diagnosed.
I am now a volunteer with Arthritis Research Canada’s Patient Advisory Board. This is how I have come to share my story with you. I believe in Arthritis Research Canada and the research they are conducting. It is changing peoples’ lives and, together, we’re raising much-needed awareness for this invisible disease that affects all ages.
Research for Real Life
Over the years, I’ve taken part in several research studies with Arthritis Research Canada that have helped me better manage my arthritis and improve my health. For example, Dr. Linda Li’s study using Fitbits and counselling to encourage people with arthritis to become more physically active.
And now that my husband and I are talking about starting a family, Dr. Mary De Vera’s research investigating the long-term effects of arthritis drugs on pregnant women and their children has become extremely important to planning for our future family.
After discussing with my doctor and studying Dr. De Vera’s research results, I have decided to start a biologic medication prior to trying to become pregnant. Knowing that the research has proven it is safe and other women have gone through this, gives me great hope that I will one day become a mother!
Your Support Matters
Arthritis research has changed my life. When I was first diagnosed, I felt so alone. I was dealing with the stigma of living with an invisible disease and wanting to hide my illness.
But now, I want to let people know that they are not alone. There are a lot of people with arthritis. Arthritis Research Canada is providing the answers to support, guide and help more than six million Canadians living with different types of this disease.