'Dancing got me through the roughest times'

Paul Casimir has been living with arthritis for half his life, but he doesn't let it stop him doing the things he enjoys.

Paul Casimir was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 20. He was a fast runner throughout his teens, but at 19 his body started to stiffen up.

"I had been feeling a little bit strange for about a year before I was diagnosed with arthritis," says Paul. "I just seemed to move at the pace of a distracted goat. I didn't really know what was going on. I was at drama school at the time and I kept getting cast as old people."

One day, after finishing a play, he collapsed into bed completely exhausted. When he woke up, his knees had swollen and hehad to stayin bed for four days. His doctor was puzzled.

"It then went away for a while, but returned with a vengeance a couple of months later," says Paul. "I was referred to a rheumatologist, who diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis. It was something I'd never heard of and I didn't know why it was happening to me. I felt tears in my eyes when she told me."

Paul managed his condition with painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication for the next few years. It was difficult for him to move properly. "Dancing was what got me through the roughest times," he says."Even when I could barely move, I could still dance. Standing still was excruciating, but transferring my weight from one leg to the other was bearable."

One day, he decided to see how he would get on without medication. He has never looked back.

"I didn't really notice much of a difference with the medication," he said. "People diagnosed now would be offered different kinds of medication, such as disease modifying medication, but that wasn't around when I was diagnosed.

"After a while it became really important to me to start challenging the condition, to take back control of my life."

He started swimming and going out dancing, and stopped worrying about what other people thought. It's been five years since the last big flare-up.

"I just learned to get on with life," he says. "It's easy to dwell on the pain and misfortune and think,'Why me?' But, in the end, that's just futile. What's important is to focus on all the things you enjoy. I swim regularly and enjoy a ramble in the woods, whereas 20 years ago I'd have thought going for a walk was the most ridiculous suggestion someone could make. The richer your experiences are in life, the more you're distracted from the pain.

"And I still look good on the dance floor, dancing like a robot from 1984!"

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 16 Aug 2016