As a long term donor and one of our social media followers, Cliff says he finds the comments from people living with Arthritis (on the Arthritis New Zealand Facebook page) interesting and, in some cases, troubling in that people are suffering.

“It is so difficult for others to understand or comprehend just how much pain those suffering from numerous forms of Arthritis are experiencing. I lived with my wife for over 40 years, who was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 21.”

Sadly, Cliff’s wife Barbara passed away earlier this year, and as a partner witnessing her daily life and times of extreme pain, he found it difficult to understand how she coped at times.

Jeremy Corbett Gout arthritis

“She was an incredibly brave woman who just wanted to live a normal life. I visited Barbara in the hospital one time before we were going out, and she said to me, ‘who would want me like this?’. I still feel so sad when I think of that.”

Medications have come a long way in the last 40 years, and now, if caught early enough, medication can help for pain management and the disease itself.

As a young person in the workplace, Barbara found people did not understand. Thankfully, she was surrounded by good people. Having time off work for hospital stays and having nurses go to her office to give her a (gold) injection regularly was accepted by her employers and colleagues.

Barbara struggled to find a new ‘normal’ and accept that life would always be different. “But she was determined to be independent and do everything she could.”

Fortunately, Barbara was cared for by three Rheumatologists who were very good and instrumental in her pain management over the years. Being a 21 year old with a severe case, they found her situation at the time a challenge.

“As the years went by, challenges changed, but at all times, the dialogue and discussions around medications, changes to medications and reviewing test results was a two-way street where Barbara was determined to understand the results and impacts. I believe that this is instrumental in the relationship with medical specialists, and I would encourage everyone to have those often difficult discussions with their Rheumatologist.”

Barbara’s GP was also active in the management of her wellbeing, which helped immensely. Multiple surgeries on her hands and elbows were painful, but the outcomes were beneficial.

People mostly don’t know what to say when they meet someone different, says Cliff.

Barbara hated people wanting to shake her hand. It was not only embarrassing to her but to the other person. The pain that a simple thing like a handshake caused her was such that she said, ‘sorry, I don’t shake hands’. Daily living was difficult and painful. Easy things like getting dressed, drying her hair, cleaning her teeth, preparing meals, housework, looking after the kids – all very tough on her.

Barbara hated buying shoes. Finding suitable shoes was hard enough, but she always felt embarrassed by her bent, swollen and malformed toes. She could not lift heavy objects, take dishes out of the oven was challenging, picking up the grandkids took much effort, and filling the car with petrol was not an option.

“She couldn’t straighten her arms, and she was always conscious that people would wonder why she couldn’t hold her arms straight and again be confronted with questions.”

Through all of this, Barbara ever complained about her pain and arthritic disabilities. She accepted them and got on with life. If she ever said she was in pain, you knew it was bad.

“My advice to partners of people with Arthritis is accept, acknowledge, help, support, understand (easier said than done), love and listen. Often a hug and a chat can work wonders. Having things like Arthritis New Zealand’s Facebook page to help and support people during these difficult times is another great advantage of modern times and access to information, advice and support.”

“Having things like Arthritis New Zealand’s Facebook page to help and support people during these difficult times is another great advantage of modern times and access to information, advice and support.”
Cliff McCauley, husband

Learn More About Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis, also called RA, is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, pain and swelling in the joints. It can occur at any age but most often develops between the ages of 25 and 50, and affects more women than men.

RA usually starts in the small joints of the hands and feet but it can also affect other parts of the body.

People with rheumatoid arthritis may experience fatigue and malaise, with low-grade fever and loss of appetite.

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