I really feel that I'm no different than most of our readers. Yes, I was diagnosed with Osteoarthritis 16 years ago and have had to undergo nine surgical joint replacements. After all of that, I went through a ton of physical therapy, saw neurologists, orthopedists, had injections, pills, creams, lotions, potions and other attempts at relief from my chronic pain; I kind of felt that I'd "paid my dues" and didn't deserve any more. Of course arthritis is non-judgmental and can be an "equal opportunity" destroyer.
Anyone can (and often does) get at least one of the many forms of it in their lifetime, and I wasn't exactly thrilled to be diagnosed with the Rheumatoid form recently. A close friend of mine in England who has spent much of her life in a wheelchair has a wonderful attitude and has learned to laugh at many of our physical challenges. (In fact, she has done many stints of volunteer work in Africa and started a "club" for the two of us - ACA for African Cripples Anonymous!) When one of my doctors suggested that I would have to use a cane the rest of my life, I decided that I wanted a cane that would "tell" people about me. Since I'm a nature photographer, I now have one cane with a cheetah print and one with a zebra pattern! When I was diagnosed with my second variety of arthritis, she said that I was really "selfish" - some people don't get the chance to have even one kind!
Some people don't understand the seemingly callous attitude, but most understand that it's a survival attitude for us. There's no point in sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves and complaining - we both TRY to keep a positive attitude (well MOST of the time anyway) and do things for other people. We've both discovered that somehow, when the pain is the worst, going out and helping others helps us cope with our own challenges.
After some VERY negative experiences with my local neurologist, and one orthopedist - both of whom claimed that unless I took massive doses of narcotics, there was nothing else they could do for my chronic pain and for me - I decided to take a different approach. After talking to some knowledgeable friends, I started hunting for doctors who practiced non-traditional medicine. No, not voodoo, but I hoped for something that could actually help me! After all, the Native Americans, most of our grandparents, and all of my adopted family in Africa have relied on natural medicines, healers, herbs, massage, acupuncture, meditation, etc. for hundreds of years. In many areas of the world, healers and doctors who practice holistic medicine are now working hand-in-hand with more traditional doctors to help the patients. In fact, two years ago when I went in for my post-op checkup on my knee from a total knee replacement, my orthopedic doctor was amazed at the rate my knee was healing. When I finally told him that before surgery, I was working with a healer in Africa, he thought a moment, gave me a big grin, and said, "Gee, it really seems to have helped!"