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Hannah Lawrence's story - JIA

Hannah Lawrence on her horse Welly Hannah Lawrence rides her horses every day and is probably more active than many of her peers.

The 18-year-old looks after and rides her horse Wellington, affectionately known as Wellie, every day. For her, horse riding is one of the best ways of staying on top of her arthritis.

Realising something was wrong

Hannah was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis when she was 10 years old.

Her mother, Helle Thorley, remembers the build-up to Hannah’s diagnosis. She said: “It came on really slowly. She developed a limp and the doctor said she must have hurt her leg. Hannah and I thought she must have done it on the trampoline.

"We were given some ibuprofen and, because it reduced the swelling, it worked for a bit.

“We went on holiday with one of Hannah’s friends, and I thought: ‘She isn’t moving properly. She isn’t moving as well as her friend’. And I knew that something was up.

“We went to the GP again and were sent to an orthopaedic specialist. They thought it was something to do with her bones. We also saw a physiotherapist who thought that something was up.

"We went to see a paediatrician and very quickly he said it was JIA.”

Helle has this advice for parents whose children have been diagnosed with arthritis: “Don’t head straight for the internet and Google. There's some contradictory and negative stuff out there.

“Try to talk to other parents in the same situation.” 

Normal and active life

Hannah Lawrence riding Welly the horseHannah was put on methotrexate and a short dose of steroids.

They got the disease under control and allowed Hannah to start living a normal, very active life."Exercise really helps me not to get stiff."

Through it all, Hannah kept riding, competing and looking after horses.

She said: “I always wanted to keep horse riding. It’s my passion.

"It keeps me supple and it's so important to stay active. For me, it helps my joints – if I keep them moving through exercise it really helps me not to get stiff."

Hannah has this advice for young people who've been told they have arthritis: “Stay positive and active. Don’t stop your life just because you have arthritis.” 

Helle said: “You would never know now just from looking at Hannah that she has arthritis.

"But she does. It’s bad when it’s not medicated.”

Hannah now goes into hospital for a check-up twice a year, but to Hannah it’s more of a social call. 

She says: “My doctor's great.

"He's very funny and I go in and say: ‘Hi, I’m fine,’ and that’s it.” 

Talk to others in the same situation

Hannah's happy to talk about how she's coped with arthritis in the hope of raising awareness about how the condition can affect young people. But this hasn't always been the case."After I spoke about it I felt better...it helps talking about it."

Until recently, Hannah kept to herself the full extent of the pain she suffered in the early days of her arthritis. Her mother, Helle, said that she never once complained.

“I didn’t tell anyone to begin with,” Hannah said. “I didn’t want to talk about it. But after I spoke about it I felt better about it, like it wasn’t a secret anymore. It helps talking about it.

“I just get on with daily life now. It could be worse, it could be a lot worse.”Hannah Lawrence and her mother Helle, with Welly the horse

For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.