Jo has been living with osteoarthritis for 15 years. When she felt her independence slipping away, she knew she had to take stock of her life.
"I broke my ankle in 1990 and was warned by an orthopedic surgeon to expect the onset of osteoarthritis. What I didn't anticipate was that within five years, not only both my ankle joints, but also my knees and hips would be affected. I currently live with a dull constant pain, which will continue for the rest of my life."
"I was lucky to be diagnosed by my GP on the second visit. My doctor was very thorough and sent me to a rheumatology clinic for tests, to be certain that the condition I had was osteoarthritis."
"Osteoarthritis affects almost every part of my life. My favourite pastime is making wooden toys. Unfortunately, I now also experience pain in my finger joints. My aim now is to keep my hands moving and try to lessen the damage, so I can continue to enjoy my hobbies for as long as possible.
"I have now been living, struggling and sometimes laughing with and at osteoarthritis for the last 15 years. In the last two years, my osteoarthritis has worsened significantly. My knees are beginning to give way, my left calf muscle has become wasted and my feet are 'turning over'. I enjoy walking, as I'm a country girl at heart, but it's increasingly becoming agony even to pop to the supermarket in the next street.
"In the past, my 'disability' went seemingly unnoticed by others. I was pushed out of the way and ranted at on buses for asking for a seat. I began to fear that I was losing control of my independence. I had to take stock of my life and my future.
"At this time, a good friend gave me a walking stick. It stayed consigned to the corner for several months because I wasn't prepared to carry a symbol of my increasing disability. One day I was unable to stand up and needed friends to help me to my feet. The shock and the embarrassment were what I needed to shake me out of my pride and into the stark reality of my situation.
"I started to use the stick to come in to work. I immediately noticed that with a visible sign of my problems, people were more patient, the pushing stopped and I got offered a seat on the bus. The stick has given me back my confidence for walking. Although other people notice it, I'm gradually becoming less aware of my constant companion and friend. Everyone needs a friend they can lean on!"
"I feel passionately about the need for good quality care for patients with osteoarthritis across the country. It's important to me that everyone gets the same sort of attention and treatment from the NHS that I have had. Early diagnosis is crucial, but so is swift access to the right treatment, information and programmes."