Sara McAreavey's Story
Sara's story is quite unusual as she was diagnosed with scleroderma very quickly. Her and her sister developed Raynaud's a year ago. She had been constantly ill and had infections for 2 years and did suspect an autoimmune condition due to Lupus being in the family. In January 2020 her GP sent off bloods, she was diagnosed in February and saw a rheumatologist a week later.
This all happened at a difficult time for Sara, she was already signed off work for 9 weeks with fatigue, chronic insomnia and anxiety, her grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she had suspected COVID-19. It was a really overwhelming experience but after a difficult few months things have started to get much better and Sara has been able to start working again from home.
Sara is shielding, she works in the regulatory dept for a pharma company, and her Employer has been very flexible, supportive and understanding. They've provided her with an ergonomic chair and wrist supports.
Sara recovered quickly from COVID-19 but her scleroderma is impacting her longer term recovery and she has still has a loss of taste and smell.
The lockdown has also meant her treatments are on hold – as she is very early in her journey she is currently having to self-manage and is currently on a low dose of nicidepine for Raynaud's. She also has a restricted diet for her kidneys. But Physio is not yet possible and she is waiting to see a dermatologist for her skin problems. Her hands are very dry and the skin is flaking. The skin on her face and scalp flares up with stress which is hard to manage and almost impossible to stop.
"The SRUK website has been a lifeline. I was signed off sick from work just before lockdown as had fatigue, chronic insomnia and anxiety and there was lots going on at the same time. I was diagnosed in February, got Covid, lockdown started, and grandmother with terminal cancer – I had a breakdown as I was overwhelmed by everything. The lack of control scares me. It got on top of me.
Exercise helps a lot – it was hard at first with pain and fatigue. But conversely exercise triggers my Raynaud's. It's difficult to get CBT appointments so I just talk to people, practice mindfulness and avoid the news to help with my mental health. I am also enjoying gardening at home! During lockdown, and especially whilst shielding, I've been feeling very isolated and missing my trips out for walks in the countryside.
So as I couldn't go to nature, I tried to bring nature to me!! I've invested in a number of house plants (all with names of course!), which I'm using my time at home to care for. I usually end up killing plants, as I'm not particularly green-fingered, but I've had a lot more time on my hands recently to research how best to care for them, as well as time just tending to them!
I've also been out planting as many flowers and shrubs as I can in the garden, as well as tending to the ones already there. This has not only been great for my anxiety, but has also given me a different way to exercise, since I couldn't leave the house. All in all, it's been a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend my time in lockdown :)”