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Kate Lawson - Owning Arthritis

Aged just 26 Kate Lawson was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. But Kate’s no push-over and was determined to keep doing as much of the things she loved doing before. Kate took ownership of her disease and now runs the hugely successful and inspirational blog Cooking With Arthur. Talking to Kate it becomes clear that while she is going to have tough days she is determined to do what makes her happy.

When you are first diagnosed with arthritis it’s a time of...

great uncertainty. You almost have to decide what you’re going to prioritise in your life. I did have to let some things go but I found that I could adapt a lot of the things I enjoy doing. It was trial and error to begin with. I was determined not to let the arthritis take those things out of my life. It’s not a smooth journey when you’re first diagnosed. It can feel like a lot of things you previously enjoyed are out of your reach. But once you get a handle on managing your arthritis you realise you can do a lot more than you first thought. Modern treatments are so good now they make a big difference.

Cooking when you have arthritis can be hard because…

you can often be low on energy. If you’re flaring and tired, the idea of putting a comb through your hair can be difficult. So the thought of going into the kitchen and cooking something from scratch can seem both physically and mentally overwhelming. Bending down to get pans, dealing with boiling water, chopping vegetables can all be quite scary when you’re feeling unwell. It can be very frustrating because cooking is one of those classic aspirational activities and we’re constantly surrounded by images of shows like The Great British Bake Off and television chefs. These are people fully able to do anything they put their mind to. That kind of cookery can feel really out of reach for somebody who is struggling to get a meal for themselves. I certainly lived off Rice Krispies because it was beyond me to gather anything else together.

The great thing about writing an arthritis blog is…

I get to meet other people with arthritis to talk about cooking with. Hearing some of the amazing ways around common cooking chores they’ve come up with such as using inner tubes to help them open jars or people having their husbands drilling nails into a board so they can put a potato on it to chop, I find that interaction hugely inspiring. It’s not just people with arthritis either, it’s people with all kinds of disabilities. What most people want is to be able to live as normal a life as possible. It’s amazing the ingenious, MacGyver methods people come up with to be able to do that. Especially in the absence of specialist cookery gadgets most people have had to make their own.

I call my arthritis Arthur because…

It’s a bit like having a split personality, you give it a persona. It does sometimes feel like you have a bad tempered toddler in charge of your body who has decided that today your arms are really going to hurt, or your jaw is really going to ache. So, like several other people, I started naming my arthritis. When I was thinking of titles for the blog I wanted something quite irreverent and a bit of fun. I didn’t want it to sound like it was going to be heavy or like the medical material you might receive like ‘Cooking with Arthritis’. I wanted to take a more upbeat approach.

Giving it a name humanises it…

It makes it yours. It’s nice to have my own shorthand particularly for something that is such a mouthful as psoriatic arthritis. It’s about you owning it rather than it owning you.

It’s frustrating when people say…

‘you’re too young to have arthritis; or ‘I have a touch of that in my thumbs’ and I think there’s a big myth and misconception of what arthritis actually is and what it feels like. People don’t understand there are up to 200 different types of it that can affect children, while others are autoimmune so it’s affecting your whole system.

Arthritis is an…

invisible illness. If I have splints on then people immediately know that some things might be difficult but otherwise they have no idea. It can make day to day life challenging. It can be exhausting. I don’t like going around wearing my wrist splints. I don’t like to draw attention to it but at the same time if I'm struggling to get my daughter on and off the bus and people are tutting at me it’s hard. That being said people with arthritis don’t want to go around with a sticker telling people about it.

Exercise and staying healthy is key but…

if I had a pound for every time someone said ‘have you tried cutting out X’ or drinking vinegar etc I’d be a rich woman. Someone gave me some emu oil the other day, it was disgusting. I’m on drugs that cost the NHS £18,000 a year. No one would invest that in me if emu oil was going to cure me.

You can follow Kate on Twitter and find out about Cooking with Arthur HERE.

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