My Story

My Story

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.

20 Replies

  • HI Liz, welcome to hopefully some sanity and support. You have certainly been through the mill. Having RA is bad enough, without all the rubbish from a seemingly twisted, narcissistic, bigoted, chauvinist, And I don't even know him!. What a legal system. I do hope you get to meet other people in your area who you can help to alleviate the loneliness, it would be really good and brave of you if you have the energy. You go girl.

    There is always someone on here, who will try and offer you support. And you can always just come on and have a rant. It works wonders. I would not have got through the last few months without this and the NRAS website. Keep posting. Take care x

  • Thank you so much means a great deal to have written about my experience and to have had such a kind response.

  • So sad to read your story of all the problems with your ex, and your problems conceiving. I too had problems conceiving and also had an ectopic pregnancy but in the end I had an healthy baby boy. That was 16yrs ago now I had my RA during pregnancy and it was the most awful thing, pain,fatigue,swollen joints you name it but I didn't take any meds because of the baby and also because I hadn't been properly diagnosed and wasn't until another 12mths later. By then the RA had taken its control over my body.

    Stress can make it worse I find,which of course you have had a lot of. but out of all this you have a beautiful baby boy and you are now safe.

    I know that might not seem much to you at the moment but the love of your son will see you through, believe me it will.

    It's nice to see you wanting to set up a support group we need more over the country good on you.

    good luck

    mand xx

  • Dear Mand, thank you for your kind comments. I am surprised to hear you had RA throughout your pregnancy, rather than after. It just shows how much of a 'chameleon' this disease can be. My 'baby' is now 9 years old ! He is a constant source of laughter and love. I feel so badly for him that his father does not contact him after the destruction he caused to his little life. But he is a super kid and I would do anything for him, although getting a little more inclined to let him 'fetch and carry' for himself now !

  • Hi Liz, what a rough journey you've had to where you are now! I can not begin to imagine how all that has impacted you and to deal with it with RA must have sometimes seemed impossible.

    However, what an amazing example you have set for your son. I'm sure he will always remember how hard you fought to make him feel safe, secure & loved throughout those times. I know it won't pay the bills and take the pressure off you when your RA is at it's worse, but you get to be with and love your son every day and guide him to becoming a better man than his father.

    Good luck on setting up a local support group. I don't know if the NRAS have support and information to do this but there is some really good stuff on the Contact A Family site which is aimed at parent/carers of disabled children but would work for any kind of group. The link to the page is:

    Look forward to following your journey.



  • Dear Ann, thanks so much for your response. It is soul destroying for me, being 52 and having to start completely from scratch again having already reached the point of financial security and have bought myself the most beautiful home I have ever seen, only to have it all taken away. It is extra difficult having to also care for a young child while hampered by a chronic health condition. I will never again own my own home as I have no income and am too old to qualify for a mortgage again in any case. I will not have a pension to help me through my old age. It is terrifying and sometimes I hardly see the point in going on. My son keeps me going and is my 'raison d'etre'.

  • Hi Liz, what a very sad story to read. You have certainly had hard times and, whilst there was little or nothing you could, you are to be applauded on your stamina and inner strength to get yourself and your son through the problems.Unfortunately, in life there are the givers, the takers and the down right rip you to shreds and screw you for everything I can get merchants. I won't say which category your ex falls into it, I doubt I need to!

    But now it's you and your son, a fresh start and a chance to move on, although I appreciate nothing is ever quite that easy, if only ...

    I too started with RA after the birth of my first child, in some people it does seem to right itself, but clearly it wasn't to be for us. I am glad that your RA is adequately controlled by the Dmards; not only do they control the symptoms but also the progression of the disease.Stress does play a dire part in the management of RA but hopefully now that part of your life is behind you and you can move forward with happiness.

    I am a group co-ordinator of the Blackpool, NRAS group, it's good fun and an opportunity to make new friends and hear others experiences of living with RA. Looking at your location your nearest NRAS group is the East Dorset group at Christchurch. New groups are popping up all over the place on a regular basis; it may be worth speaking to Clare or Sue at NRAS to see what's happening near you!

    Look forward to getting to know you,

    Lyn x

  • Hi Lyn, Thank you for your words of support and encouragement. Sue told me there is a group in Yeovil and Christchurch, both of which are too far away, hence my suggestion to her that I start a group here in Weymouth. Not sure how to get it going though, if you could offer some advice in this regard ? Liz x

  • Hi Liz, I will message you either later today or tomorrow! Just dashing about (well dashing isn't quite the word!) trying to catch up with things .. it's never ending!

    Lyn x

  • Wow Liz,

    What a story and well done to you for getting through all you have been through!

    I hope your life turns around for the better, I have heard so many storys off partners not being able to cope with there spouses RA.

    Good luck with starting your support group x

  • Hi ?, thanks for response. I am trying to get a little electric bike business off the ground here in Weymouth. E-bikes are great for those with RA as they take all the strain while giving all the pleasure of having the wind blowing in your hair again. I love my bike, and now that the weather is warming up again, I look forward to bike rides along the sea front in the warm air and sunshine. x

  • hi so sorry to hear your story such an unhappy one, men can be so self centred and cant deal with illness, I am on my own too, yes you miss what you had and i do the same, struggling to wk, off at moment, i am on my own with a mortgage, only able ot work part time

  • Hi Summer, yes, men are so full of promises and love at the start. My ex used to brag about how he would look after me even into my old age.....and I believed him. Boy can they do a swift about turn when the reality of a chronic condition hits home ! Still, at least I got rid of him before I got old and really needed him ; ) I see that the government step in to help if a person is struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments. Have you managed to tap into that ? Surely with a chronic condition you are eligible ?

  • Hi Liz

    welcome back to england and the site...wot a journey and what a woman......... still fighting back.. I applaud your courage though I realise you have bad days.

    I raised two sons alone, it was difficult but amazing, best thing I ever did and now they are my best mates, plus their wives and my grandchildren.

    Every crisis brings something better when you work through it.

    Use this site to let it out, you will get support and understanding.

    Good luck with the group

    Sue x

  • Hi Sue, thanks for kind response. I am SO looking forward to seeing my son marry and to have grandchildren. I guess I will never have the big family I always wanted, but sometimes a smaller family circle is closer. My son has been off school all this week with a throat virus. Last week I was out of action with a flare up. I don't know how you managed to bring up two boys alone. It is incredibly difficult. I have no support, no family to help out. It's just me and Connor. Thank goodness we weren't both out of action at the same time. x

  • Wow you could write a book seriously. Thank you for sharing your story. Sorry but your ex is a real rat. I hope life gets better for you. I am sure it will. Keep strong. Please make sure you are getting all you are entitled too from the state and keep us posted how you are doing.

  • Sharon, thanks so much for response. It is so scary to be on benefits with nothing at my age. When I am asked at the Job Centre if I have any savings or any property, to have to say NO is so humiliating. They look at me, apparently a middle aged, middle class woman, and I can see them wondering why I have nothing. They probably suspect I am trying to defraud them. My ex husband, who is remarried and has homes on both sides of the world now, does not even realise what he has done to myself and our son. He is still, even now, trying to take every last penny from us. I would like to get my story publicised in a major newspaper. How a wealthy North London family destroyed their own child/grandchilds future using a corrupt south african lawyer while maintaining their Coutts bank accounts and mansions around the world. It is appalling.

  • dreadful sharon , hows it going?, why not try with story womens mags pay for stosrys too.. best wishes ali x

  • I am soory drugs and ra afftecing typing should say soorry lix in last post soorry sharon x

  • Hi Sharon, yes, I was thinking of telling my story to a woman's mag, but not been back in the country long enough to know which are the best mags. What do you think ? Shame, your poor hands must be so bad with RA. Liz x

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