A brave young woman is fighting through the pain barrier every day.
Sheryl Love refuses to let rheumatoid arthritis control her life.
Just days away from her 21st birthday, the former Falkirk High School pupil has been living with her painful, deteriorative condition for over seven years.
She now lives by the advice she once gave a fellow pupil who had arthritis in his knee joints.
“He was a keen footballer,” said Sheryl. “I just told him things would get better. You have to learn to live with it because it is part of your everyday life. Don’t let it control you.”
Sheryl wants people to be aware this form of arthritis does not just affect people in their 50s and 60s.
She said: “I was diagnosed when I was 13. I had pains in my arms and they didn’t know what it was at first. They thought I had lupus or bone cancer and I was sent to Yorkhill Hospital.”
Doctors discovered the teenager had chronic rheumatoid arthritis - an inflammatory disorder normally associated with elderly people - in every bone in her body except her spine.
Sheryl said: “The first thing I said was, why have I got an old person’s disease? They couldn’t give me any explanation.”
Placed on a course of steroids, Sheryl’s weight increased dramatically as a side effect and her self-confidence all but evaporated when she returned to Falkirk High.
“I felt like a freak. I missed most of my third year and hardly saw my friends. I started getting bullied.”
Crippled by arthritis some days, Sheryl just wanted to fit in at school - but that proved difficult due to her changed appearance, her condition and the measures put in place to deal with it.
“They allowed me to use the lift and let me away from classes early so I wouldn’t get caught up in the rush. I know they were trying to help, but I just wanted to do what other people did.
“I lost a lot of friends at school through this - but it just showed me who my real friends were.”
Sheryl’s mum Lynn Gibson (45) is now her carer at the family home in Brodie Street, Bainsford.
“I help her in and out of the bath,” said Lynn. “Help her get up out of chairs - even help her cut up her food on bad days.
“It’s not going to get better, she will have to live with it for the rest of her life.”
And that’s just what Sheryl aims to do, with help from her family and her own grit and determination.
She said: “I wanted to be a paediatric nurse. I was told I would never be able to do that and that shattered my dreams, but I still try to live as normal a life as possible.”
Despite being forced to use a wheelchair some days, Sheryl is about to sit her driving test.
“It’s been difficult. I’ve had to cancel a couple of lessons because I was too sore to do anything. I just want to drive like everyone else.
“If I get a car I’m planning to go away for the weekend with my friends.”
A recent bowling night with younger sister Leona came to an end when she fell and hurt her knee.
“Even lifting the bowling balls hurt and I could only bowl a couple of times,” she admitted.
Undaunted, Sheryl plans to celebrate her 21st birthday next week with a big night out with pals.