Finding Pleasure in Spite of Osteoarthritis Complications

Pattye Snyder Health Guide
  • I was awakened this morning with beautiful, sparkly sunshine hitting me in the face. After seemingly endless rainfall and dreary days, this was a glorious surprise! Many
    prayers are still going out to the farmers and other people that are actually suffering financially and otherwise from this destructive season. I found it ironic that I usually return to the US from my volunteer work in Africa this time of year, in part, to escape the heavy rains of the "rainy season" in Africa - oh well!

    Usually, I suffer less pain from my osteoarthritis while I'm in Africa. This year, the US rainy season really made my joints (and seemingly all over) hurt more. I seldom use any pain meds for a variety of reasons. Some people have said to me, "Gee, if you don't use meds, then you must not have pain!" Not quite. I DO have pain much of the time, but, for me, I try not to use them. When my doctors and I have tried a variety of them, we haven't come up with the product that works for me, so, I have preferred to stay off instead.

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    I have been in warm water physical therapy for the last month (three times per week) to strengthen my left leg and try to improve my balance which continues to deteriorate due to my osteoarthritis. I've had nine orthopedic surgeries so far with my disease. I assume that I'm doing better (at least in the pool) because my therapist continues to add to my ankle weights (or she's trying to drown me)! Next week, land therapy will also be added.


    I become very frustrated at times because my body doesn't do as I wish - many readers can relate to that. But I also am very grateful that my orthopedic surgeons have the skills and equipment to provide me with the artificial joints that I need. (I need to remember that I'm almost 70 years old and probably won't make the US Olympic Track Team.  Of course, odds are I wouldn't have made it without this disease either).

    When I was first diagnosed with this disease over 15 years ago, I was devastated, and assumed, like many of our readers, that my life was essentially over. I've always been an adventurous person, and since I'm a photo-journalist, couldn't figure out how this glitch, this diagnosis, could possibly fit into my life. After the first joint replacement, I assumed that my arthritis experience was OVER and I could resume my life as I knew it - yeah, right. I've had to learn to live with my disease. Yes, post-op, I've had restrictions, but usually not long-lasting. I've found that, in general, my life CAN continue - a huge part of it is attitude!

    I couldn't mow my lawn because my mower is not self-propelled, and the whole lawn was just too much strain on my legs, but I found that if I do only the front one week, and the back, the next.  I can keep it mowed without tearing up my legs. I do the same type of thing on many other household duties - I may only do half at one time (and the Good Housekeeping inspection team has yet to call).


    I've always admired Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, but realized that, with my disease, I shouldn't try climbing her; however, I chose an easier route and only went up half-way.  And I will tell you: it made me feel very good about me.  I didn't really have to do the whole thing! I always use wheelchair assistance in airports - it helps me get to the right boarding place and quite often qualifies me for early boarding.  I prefer this to tripping over the scrambling hordes! I'm finally (kind of) learning to ask for help - whether it be something physical or simply when I need clarification on something.

  • Probably most important, I'm re-learning how to laugh, to TRY to not take things seriously all of the time. Last week I happened to see a national survey on which part of a chocolate bunny should be eaten first. At that time, I commented to a friend that I'd never eaten one, so had no frame of reference. The next day, I was given a chocolate bunny. This reminded me of other silly food discussions we've had over the years - ie. which part of a piece of candy corn should be eaten first? I realize that these things are just fun for many of us, and some people have no clue why we do it. The reality for me is it's just fun!

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    In the midst of horrible tornadoes, flooding, wars, and, of course sometimes excruciating osteoarthritis pain, I need to be able to think about something silly. So, for today, the sun is out.  Hopefully the storms have lessened, and my daffodils and tulips are happily swaying in the breeze.

    I will continue to use my catch phrase - WATCH ME - I will try not to let my OA control my life!

    Asante sana

Published On: May 02, 2011