Leader: Dionne Lynch’s meetups give young Bendigo women with arthritis a place to laugh, chat and seek advice. Photo: SUPPLIED

Finding comfort in support group

May 15, 2021 BY

BENDIGO’S Young Women’s Arthritis Support Group brings together an often-forgotten group of people with the condition.

Each month around 10 women of working age meet for a breakfast catch up and to hear of others’ experience in the city’s small world of professional arthritis treatment.

“We catch up once a month just for an informal chat and everyone’s got different types of arthritis, some people might have had arthritis since they were children or might have recently been diagnosed as well,” facilitator Dionne Lynch said.

“A lot of people probably associate arthritis with someone that’s older and they say ‘oh you’re too young to have arthritis’, so it’s good to have that community connection with other women of a similar age that are going through the same journey that maybe have to manage [arthritis] with work and children as well,” she said.

Ms Lynch started the Bendigo YWASG around three years ago after the original Melbourne group, founded some 30 years ago, suggested she run her own meetups when the trips down to the state capital became too much for her physically.

“They said, ‘why don’t you try and start a group in Bendigo?’ and then I realised that there were so many women that were in the same boat,” she said.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns Ms Lynch said the group remained connected through Zoom meetings and since the beginning of the year they have welcomed five new members.

“Every month we’ve got new people come along which is great,” she said. “People can come and chat about their experience especially since a lot of their specialists are not local.

“People travel to Melbourne or Geelong or Shepparton as well, so they don’t really have any connection locally to do with their arthritis so it’s really beneficial to catch up with a local group.”

Ms Lynch, who has ankylosing spondylitis, an auto-immune arthritis, said people living regionally with arthritis are at a great disadvantage when attempting to seek medical help. Personally, she travels to Geelong for professional treatment.

“That’s a whole day out that’s worn you out and it’s a whole day off work as well. You’re exhausted by the end of the trip,” she said.

“And it’s not something that you can just say ‘hey I’m having a really bad couple of weeks can I make an appointment?’, you can’t jump in the car, it needs to be planned in advance because it’s a whole day trip out just for an appointment.”

Ms Lynch is hoping to arrange more formal group activities in the future and said, “That would be ideal later on down the track when we get a bit more settled and things are back to normal”.

Anyone wanting more information on the YWASG can visit their Facebook page or website ywasg.com.