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Terry's story – osteoarthritis and genetics

Terry LawrenceTerry’s story is typical of many people who are living with osteoarthritis. An active, healthy, professional woman for most of her life, she developed knee osteoarthritis in her fifties.

At first the pain was manageable with physiotherapy and steroid injections, but it gradually got worse to the point that she could not sleep at night.

'My GP suggested a partial knee replacement, so I was absolutely shocked when I saw the surgeon who showed me the x-ray of my knee. There was no cartilage left at all, and I needed a total knee replacement,' Terry says.

'I thought that only happened to people who were really old, and I was only 58.'

Terry had a knee replacement when she was 60, but that isn’t the end of her story. Three years later, after a period of intensive physiotherapy, steroid injections and increasingly debilitating pain, Terry has had to have both of her shoulders replaced.

Two years later she also needed a hip replacement, and she'll have another knee replacement in January 2015 – a total of five joint replacement operations. 

Terry says she's grateful to have been able to have these joint replacement operations, as they have enabled her to continue an active life. But she sees joint replacement as a "last resort" following years of intense pain and difficulty.

'Before each of my joint replacement operations, I had reached the point when I would gladly have agreed to have the limb amputated; the pain was so severe and unbearable!'

Terry is learning to live with the chronic difficulties of osteoarthritis. She remains positive and busy, enjoying time with her grandchildren, hobbies and voluntary work as a reading helper in a local primary school, but she recognises that osteoarthritis has imposed limits on what she is able to do.

'You never know when you might have a day when the pain is so bad that you can do little other than rest and give in to it,' she says. 'I live with the constant dread that I might eventually need another joint replaced.''Once the genetic causes of osteoarthritis are understood, preventive treatment can be developed.'

Terry is 'tremendously excited' about the arcOGEN study, which hopes to identify the genetic changes that increase the risk of people developing osteoarthritis.

Terry says, 'I believe that once the genetic causes of osteoarthritis are understood, preventive treatment can be developed that will avoid the need for major surgery which is so costly in terms of money and restrictions on lives.

'I would love to see effective preventive treatment become routine practice and I don’t think that time is so very far away.

'I have two daughters and four grandchildren. The legacy I would like to leave to them is that they do not have to endure the pain and difficulty of osteoarthritis – it will become a thing of the past.'

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