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Thanks for coming by Charlotte! Tell us about yourself.

I’m 17 years old and currently studying forensic science.  I have Juvenile Idiopathic arthritis – Polyaricular Rheumatoid factor positive. I was diagnosed 26th July 2011 at the age of 16.  I live in Wiltshire with my Mum and Dad – I also have an older brother serving in the army, who lives in Reading.

Are their special challenges being a teen with RA?  What’s the biggest misconception about the disease?

Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out as a teen, when everyone seems to be having such a huge social life.  Frequently, I’m not well enough to join in or my hospital appointments take over much of my time, so I have less time to spend with my friends.  I feel left out and quite often isolated. It was also challenging when I was first diagnosed because I had my whole life planned out, all my dreams set and I was getting on with life doing everything I enjoyed then suddenly, these thoughts were stopped by my RA. Everything had to change.  I think the biggest misconception is that many in society don’t realize that young people can get arthritis.  They think that it’s the same as osteoporosis, the same type that that most old people get.  Much of society is unaware of the multiple forms of arthritis and believe those with it just have aching joints. In reality, many kinds are much more serious, like RA.  It bothers me that people think that if you don’t look disabled, you must not be ill.  Rheumatoid arthritis is, for the most part an invisible disease!

What do you do for fun when you’re not embroiled in working on homework?

Before I got arthritis, I enjoyed doing sport-Boxing and horse riding as they were my favorites! However these high impact sport prove very difficult with this disease now so I can no longer be involved with them.  I do enjoy some sports and I try to do some form of exercise, that is manageable with my disease. I also enjoy spending time with my friends, reading and just relaxing!

What’s your advice for other teens with RA?

Just keep going! Research the illness and surround yourself with supportive people. Keep talking to the doctors and tell them the specifics about your pain.  Take your medication and do your exercises, stay positive and move up and on!

I understand that you are spearheading a very exciting fundraiser for those with rheumatic diseases. Would you give us the details on this event? How can those who are interested in this  auction, contribute to it?

Yes, this will be the first of many I hope!  I am holding a raffle April 28th, 2012 , for the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath, England. It is the hospital where I am treated. They do an amazing job and specialize in arthritis and similar illness. Many people being treated have to visit lots of different places but everything there is under one roof!  They provide physiotherapy and occupational therapy. The hospital even has their own hydro pool which are hard to come across around here. They also have a gym. Patients can go there on treatment courses where they are taught how to cope and manage with their illness, mentally and physically. Everyone there is really friendly and always go the extra mile to help. The rheumatologists there do a fantastic job and I feel that they really are not credited enough, so I want to draw attention to their work. I am doing this event to thank them for all they have done to help me.  They are truly wonderful people!  I feel it’s important to give something back to those at the hospital.  I am asking the public to donate prizes and so far I have been overwhelmed with kindness! Here are some of the donations that I have received for the raffle:

Pizza Oven – The Templestone
Free course of swimming lessons
Free Gym membership
Family Pass to Bowood
Adult and Child ticket to Cotswold Wildlife Park
Worn and signed Bath Rugby shirt
Signed Player photo from Liverpool Football Club
Signed player photo from Manchester United Football Club
Gift voucher for a hot air balloon ride
Nandos Restaurant voucher
A signed Jacqueline Wilson book.
A signed book by Carla Jones.
Jamie Oliver goodies Jamie Oliver book, Jamie’s Italian apron + bag

Also I have been contacted by the cosmetic company, Lush and they are hopefully going to donate some of their products . The Bath Theatre kindly agreed to donate some tickets nearer the date. A member of Ed Sheeran’s team who emailed me to say they would donate a signed photo. One of my followers on Twitter, has also kindly sent me a donation as well.  I still have a long way to go but the response has been amazing.

Where can my readers contact you to get the details on how to make a donation?

It is with regret that raffle tickets are not for sale for people in the USA because most of the prizes are for local places (gardens, parks, restaurants etc.) However if they wish to donate money, they can visit my “justgiving”, page.  http://www.justgiving.com/Charlotte-Stacey0 Or there is a link on my blog. From this site they can donate online or via text. If you do wish to find out more, it is regularly updated on my blog or you can see my twitter feed. For further information the public can email me at charlottestaceyy@yahoo.co.uk .

What direction will you be headed after high school to follow your dreams?

I want to study criminal psychology, so I shall hopefully continue to  a university to do this. I’m not too sure which university I wish to attend, however I want to stay close to home.  I have a few in mind such as Bristol University, Cardiff University and Derby (which is close to my Grandparents). I am also looking at staying on at college and doing a university level course. But I hope to study Forensic Psychology for this is the career I want to pursue. I had to adjust my dreams a bit due to my RA but it won’t stop me from following them.

Thank you Charlotte, for the inspiring interview.  I think it absolutely fabulous that you are making a difference in the lives of so many. Your gracious attitude is a example for us all.  I have no doubt you will raise awareness to rheumatic diseases, as well as raise a great deal of money to benefit your hospital!


For more information:

My twitter: @charlotte_stace
My blog: charlottesrajourney.blogspot.com
The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases: http://www.rnhrd.nhs.uk/
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