Injecting a little hope - Mandy's story of how she found relief from arthritic pain
Mandy Masters doesn’t let life pass her by.
Born in Essex, with no arms as a result of thalidomide she was already a celebrity by the time she went to school – with her photo becoming symbolic of thalidomide around the world.
Since then she’s gone on to work as a receptionist, a beautician, and a make-up artist – all using her feet. She has had a strong connection with the spirit world since she was 14, becoming known for her work as a trance medium and writing Take a Break magazine’s Fate and Fortune page.
Mandy has been married to husband Wayne for 39 years and has two daughters and eight grandsons so she’s been kept very busy.
Arthritic pain started to slow Mandy down
She thrived on her busy lifestyle until the aches and pains of getting older slowed her down. When the pain got unbearable she decided to opt for steroid injections. Her experience offers a great insight into how injections can help with acute pain.
“I had my first injection four years ago,” Mandy explains, “I’d got to the point where I couldn’t walk too far, and I was having excruciating pains in my knees caused by arthritis. My grandson had had injections for a painful condition, and it really helped, while I was managing with anti-inflammatories and was on 1000 mg of Naproxen.”
“My right knee was the worst, with ‘niggling’ pain in my left, but it just got more and more painful. I had problems getting off the loo because it hurt so much when I bent my leg – and Wayne couldn’t help because he was suffering with a hernia. It was miserable.
Mandy decided to try a steroid injection instead of painkillers
When my doctor wanted to reduce the Naproxen to 500 mg I couldn’t face the thought of living with the pain so I decided I’d go for the injection approach myself.”
When Mandy tried to get the injection she needed, through her GP, she was told that there was a three-month waiting list and that, even being a thalidomide survivor, she wouldn’t be seen as a priority. Mandy wasn’t having any of that, and complained to her practice manager before contacting the Trust.
Dr Susan Brennan put her in touch with a private doctor, who explained that injections work well but that it is difficult to predict how long they will last. Different people experience different results, and the effects of injections can last many months – or weeks – depending on the person. Mandy was prepared to take a chance, and went ahead.
“I couldn’t believe it” she says, “Within an hour of the injection the pain had gone."
Four years on, Mandy has just had her right knee injected again.
“The doctor said it could last only six weeks, or I could be lucky again” she says. “If the pain comes back in another four years, it’s likely I’ll have to have a knee replacement. They take a year to heal, which means I won’t be able to feed myself and I’ll be in a wheelchair. Even if it’s temporary, it’s like a black cloud hanging over my head, and I have to really fight it.
The doctor has told me that losing weight will help – but it’s not easy as you get older. I try to watch what I eat – even though I love cake. I’m also trying to spend more time in our swimming pool.”
Mandy’s left knee is still ‘niggly’ but she’s being sensible and not pushing herself too far.
“It’s three weeks since my injection, now,” she tells us “and I’m fine. When I first had it done I still used to groan when I sat down or got up. Wayne was worried that I was still in pain and I had to tell him it was just force of habit,” she laughs, “I’m trying not to do it now!”
Mandy recommends steroid injections for anyone suffering similar joint pain
Mandy’s busy life is still chugging on, she’s off to Ibiza to write her second book and her zest for life is obvious. “I do get depressed when I hear that another person affected by thalidomide has died,” she admits, “but I have to push those dark thoughts away. I’d recommend that anyone else suffering the pain I’ve gone through gets a steroid injection – 110%.
I’m going to put myself on the waiting list for my left knee to be done through the NHS – just because I get a health grant doesn’t mean I should have to pay for the basic right of being pain free. If other thalidomiders are going through the same thing they really should give injections a go.”
Find out more about pain and how to manage it, and read other beneficiary stories