Literal Freedom: Laura James on Rheumatoid Arthritis

This week, 16th – 22nd June 2014, is Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a painful, often debilitating auto-immune disease, which causes laura handinflammation, stiffness and in most cases, chronic fatigue. I’ve been diagnosed with the condition for near on thirty years. It’s indiscriminate, and not as some may think, restricted to older people. I was eighteen when I first noticed a dirty red hue and swelling to my knuckles. My mother had been diagnosed five years prior, so as soon as I showed her my puffy fingers, we were off to the hospital.

That was a long time ago, and treatment was vastly different then to now. Technology, science and medicine have come on in leaps and bounds, and one of the reasons I am able to type this post is because of the amazing hand surgery I’ve undergone in the last few years. My rheumatology and orthopaedic teams are incredibly skilled, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be under their care.

My debut novel, ‘Truth or Dare?’ started life when my left wrist had been partially fused and plated. I had a minimum of six weeks in a cast, followed by a couple of months in a splint. With a head full of ideas and an unshackled right hand, it was the perfect time to write the novel I’d always said was ‘in me’. I took out my A4 notebook, warmed up my favourite pen and posed the question, ‘Is it ever acceptable for a person to do the wrong thing for the right reason?’ At that moment, Kate Blair and Declan O’Brien entered my world. Declan has the best hands.

Hands 3Technology has also provided me with an alternative way to read. I am not always able to hold a physical book, as much as I love them, so on ‘bad’ days, I switch on my e-reader and lose a few hours living vicariously through the characters. It’s the same when I’m creating and writing books. Distraction is a well-known technique for fighting pain. Lately I’ve been distracted by my new hero in my second Choc Lit book, ‘Follow Me, Follow You’. Gorgeous Chris Frampton bears an uncanny resemblance to Johnny Depp.

I am often preoccupied with the characters in my head.

I’m often preoccupied with Johnny Depp.

It’s pain management, you understand.

I think it’s fair to say that with or without a condition such as RA, the human body has itsphysical limits, but there’s more to us than skin and bone, or in my case, metalwork and plastic. We have our minds, imaginations and creativity, and when inspired, even if it’s for the shortest time, we are free.

For further information on rheumatoid arthritis, please click on the link for the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society. https://www.facebook.com/nationalrheumatoidarthritissociety?fref=ts

http://www.nras.org.uk/stories/writing-with-rheumatoid-arthritis

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