How medication, meditation and the NRAS Helpline have helped me cope with my diagnosis

My name is Harry Bhamrah. I was born in Kenya and moved to London when I was 16. I am married with two daughters, one is a GP (which is handy) and the other an orthodontist consultant, I am also blessed with a 4-month-old grandson. 

I worked for 30 years in IT and then 10 years in Community Engagement, which involved encouraging communities to engage with providers of local health and social care services little did I know then that I would be needing to do the same myself one day. 

In September 2016, I was on a walking holiday in Italy, and I found that my eyes were very irritable – this was I believe the start of my rheumatoid arthritis with secondary Sjogren’s syndrome! 

I had to cut short my Italian vacation and upon my return saw my GP immediately. It took endless tests, at various hospitals (Western Eye, Kings Oral medicine for my dry mouth and then Hillingdon Hospital) before I finally got a diagnosis. This was a very distressing time. 

The consultant at Hillingdon advised me to contact the NRAS Helpline and thank heavens he did.  In the beginning, I used to call them [the Helpline] every few days because they were the only people who had time to listen to me and offered me guidance as to what I could do next – they were truly a Godsend! When I was depressed and worried, I really don’t know what I would have done without their friendly support! 

It was a long time before I was prescribed a ‘biological’ treatment – which thank God means I am now in remission. This enabled me to rekindle my love of travel and earlier this year to take a tour of Israel where I walked on the very long wall of Old Jerusalem! 

At the moment by current bugbear is fatigue, so I’m grateful to have just received the Fatigue Matters booklet. I find all the NRAS booklets helpful and easy to read. They are good to have around to refer back to and offer great supportive information. 

My way of dealing with RA is I try and ignore it and get on with life! I have discovered spirituality and meditation in the form of ‘Brahma Kumaris’ which has transformed my life, teaching me how to have a good life. My very helpful GP recommended I attend a ‘mindfulness for health’ course this year, which I found really helpful. I also attend an exercise class on Monday mornings, and we have tea and chat afterwards – this is a great start to my week!  I believe the key is keeping busy and staying interested in many activities. I also belong to two walking groups and regularly walk in the Chess Valley, which keeps me fit. 

I keep involved in the local community activities also. Four years ago, I went along to a U3A (University of the Third Age) meeting as I was interested if they had a group near me, they didn’t so asked me If I would start one. This is my 4th year as Group Leader of The Visits Group, and we have a growing membership of 177. In addition, I have started my second term as secretary of the local Lions club with which I have been involved for 30 years. 

I am currently on two WEA (Workers of Educational Association) courses, ‘Art Appreciation through visiting London art galleries’ and ‘History of London through walks’ and now feel like a knowledgeable Londoner! 

In October 2017, I travelled with an uncle, from the Punjab in the north to Kerala in the south of India – it was so hot and humid, just like this summer in the UK. I did find the weather made my RA more tolerable, which was a bonus. I am already booked on a grand tour of China, including walking the Great Wall of China, which I am really looking forward to. One day I hope to visit Chennai (Madras) and Goa but one day at a time. 

My advice to anyone newly diagnosed with RA is to keep positive, ‘walk on the sunny side of the road’, have faith and be grateful for what you have – and use the NRAS Helpline, they have been my lifeline, and I consider them my friends on the end of a telephone line. Thank you!