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Carrie Thompson's story - rheumatoid arthritis

Carrie Thompson draws the curtains at the Royal Albert Hall  

Carrie Thompson has a full diary, by anyone’s estimation.

The 22-year-old is studying for a degree at the Royal Academy of Music. She sings regularly and also teaches music at a boys’ school. She dreams of studying in the US and performing in some of the world’s most iconic venues. She also has rheumatoid arthritis.

Diagnosis

Carrie was 18 and was preparing for her A-levels when she was diagnosed. She started her journey with arthritis as she meant to continue, determined not to let it stop her getting on with life.

Carrie says: “I've had symptoms since I was six.

"When they thought that it could have been arthritis, they dismissed that because I was rheumatoid negative.”

Before it was brought under control, Carrie’s arthritis got so bad that she was paralysed from the neck down and had fluid on her lungs.

The condition was brought under control, initially through strong doses of steroids and methotrexate. The methotrexate caused her to lose some of her hair.

Her arthritis since has been up and down.

Determination

Carrie’s response to her condition has always been sensible and practical, but she's also determined to make the most of her immense talents, great personality and love of life."I don’t just want to be seen as someone with arthritis."

Carrie gives up her time for charities, including Arthritis Research UK, to be a figurehead for young people with the condition.

She's happy to share personal details and talk about the impact arthritis has had on her life, but she has an important point to make.

She says: “I'm very proud to talk about arthritis and raise awareness about how the condition affects young people; I think it’s important to do that.

"But I don’t just want to be seen as someone with arthritis.”

This is a powerful sentiment, and one that Carrie has personified to extraordinary lengths with all her achievements and interests.

Amazing experience

Having been brought up in Swansea, Carrie made her proud Welsh family even prouder when she was asked to sing Land of My Fathers before Wales played Serbia and Macedonia in qualifiers for the 2014 football World Cup and also before a friendly match against Finland.

Carrie says: “I'm patriotic and I was proud and thrilled that I was doing it for my country.

“I was ok until I got onto the pitch and I saw how many people there were. There were 17,000–18,000 people at the ground – the most amount of people I'd ever performed for.

“It was such an amazing experience. 

“It was quite nerve-wracking. I was more nervous after I had done it though. My Dad said, ‘Don’t forget about all the millions of people watching it on television’."

Carrie has also sung opera in France and Italy and has performed in concerts around London, including at the Royal Albert Hall and Festival Hall.

Take control

As well as rheumatoid arthritis, Carrie also has Ehlers–Danlos syndrome, which can affect skin, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, internal organs and bones.

Having the two conditions has caused complications with her medication and at times it's been difficult for Carrie to know which condition is causing a flare-up. "You know your body better than anybody else."

Carrie says: “You’ve really got to take control of your own condition. You can’t sit back and let people sort it out for you.

“Obviously doctors are really brilliant these days, but you know your body better than anybody else. It’s important for you to stay on top of things – say if you have a flare-up or if you need new medication.

“I’ve got really supportive parents and they’ve been brilliant. I think they expected the worse. But you can live a life with arthritis.

“There may be days when you won't want to get out of bed because of arthritis, but your ambition and determination can take you wherever you want in life."

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For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org.
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