I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1999 when I was 27 years of age. I was lucky in some ways - my diagnosis took place in the emergency department of my local hospital. I had presented there with intense pain, swelling and tenderness in my left hand; less so in my right hand. I saw a rheumatologist immediately, without the usual waiting period for an appointment with a specialist. The rheumatologist who diagnosed me that day has subsequently been my doctor for almost 12 years.