I am Scottish. I was married in East Sussex in a small village called Fletching in 1997 to an Englishman I thought to be the kindest and most caring man I had ever met. I wanted to have a child but had problems conceiving and suffered miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, losing one fallopian tube. I eventually, miraculously, conceived when I was 42 ! By this time we had emigrated to Cape Town where I took my hard earned life savings to buy a B&B which I ran successfully until late into my pregnancy when my hubbie took over the running of it.
Immediately after the birth of my son (Dec 2001) I noticed that I was hobbling around in the mornings and put it down to the after effects of the emergency ceasar I had to have. But weeks went by and I didn't get any better. My husband and I eventually went back to my gynaecologist who told me I might have something called 'post partum rheumatoid arthritis'. She referred me to an RA specialist in the same hospital, who confirmed her suspicions. He immediately put me on salazopyrin, prednisone, folic acid and coxflam. Within a week I was relieved of the terrible stiffness and pain in my hands and feet. It gradually dawned on me that I would never again have the level of fitness I used to have. The RA had hit me like a ton of bricks after the pregnancy ended as the body lowers the immune system in order to maintain the 'foreign presence' inside the womb. As soon as the pregnancy was over, my immune system kicked in again, and how !
However, this blow was nothing compared to what I was to endure over the next 6 years. My 'kind and caring' husband decided to 'offload' myself and our son and proceeded to litigate me into the ground through the appalling legal system in South Africa using the most corrupt of lawyers. The cruelest aspect of this was that with his wealth, he paid for 'expert witnesses' I could not afford to oppose, in the form of another RA Specialist whom I had never met, plus psychologists and HR specialists to dismiss my claim to token maintenance due to having contracted RA during our marriage.
After having to sell my beautiful B&B to pay half a million pounds in legal fees I was left penniless and homeless and have nothing left to offer my beautiful son but my love.
We have since returned to England to sanity and safety. We survive now on state benefits. My wealthy ex husband was granted my other property in SA while also retaining a large home in Cambridge. He denies that he has any money to pay child support. The stress has been overwhelming and certainly exacerbated my RA. It flares up every now and again, like it did last week after a major move to a cheaper area which I had to do alone and unaided. I lost my medication in amongst the packing and could not take it for two days. Two days is all it takes for the condition to flare alarmingly, resulting in days lost to fatigue and exhaustion.
I hope to be able to start up an RA help group or charity in my new area where I can meet other sufferers and hopefully not feel so alone.
The thing that occurs to me the most, is that this RA is an 'invisible' disease. If it's symptoms are contained by DMARDs, and one doesn't have the twisted swollen joints like my mother and my aunts have, other people have little sympathy. In the final judgement handed down only two months ago in Cape Town, it is clear that our Acting Judge firmly believed I was lying that I had this condition and proceeded to rule against me due to that belief which was backed up by evidence from my ex husbands' 'hired guns'. I have been ordered to pay the costs for the expert witnesses who claimed there was nothing wrong with me, costs I ironically could not afford to pay for my own RA specialist to dispute at the time.