Don't Let Osteoarthritis Slow You Down: Finding Ways to Help Others
Much to my dismay, it was necessary to return to the U.S. from my volunteer work in Africa much sooner than I had hoped. The increasing pain and deterioration of my low back (compliments of osteoarthritis, of course), made my life pretty miserable. As much as I love my work in Africa, good medical help is fairly non-existent, so I had to bite the proverbial bullet and return to the States for help. At the recommendation of my primary care physician, I was referred to a Pain Clinic, who insisted I take narcotic pain meds as well as injections into my low back. The pills made me crazier than usual, and, against my neurologist’s advice (who gave me no viable alternative), I quit taking all pain meds. I found the injections to be scary as well as incredibly expensive. One treatment was over $1,700 and wasn’t entirely covered by my health insurance; unfortunately, these also seemed to do little to ease the pain. After talking to some educated friends, I began going to a doctor specializing in non-traditional medicine such as acupuncture, herbal teas, massage, exercise and electrical stimulus of the nerve endings in my lower back. Much to my amazement, I seemed to be receiving rapid relief from the pain although I was no longer taking any oral meds or injections!
With the relief of so much pain, I felt somewhat lost - I didn’t know what to try or to what extent I could “trust” the pain relief. I realized that my former business of landscaping was probably no longer an alternative. I‘ve continued my photography as well as my writing, but again, what else? I’ve always loved to cook and bake, so I began my business called Patticakes & Co. doing custom cooking for friends (and customers). As usual, I again tended to overwork (and, unfortunately, undercharge)! I loved the positive feedback from everyone, but you can’t pay bills that way, and it was taking a major toll on my energy. I guess I DO tend to forget that I’m 69 and have several artificial joints, compliments of OA!
As many people realize, God works in mysterious ways. I’ve always enjoyed working with teenagers - not only when I taught school, but when I worked with my streetkid prisoners in a Juvenile Detention Center in Africa teaching them farming. For about three years, a neighbor kid down the street (well, he’s 19 now) has dropped by to see if he could mow my lawn. Each time, I gave him a “Thanks, but no” since I already have a man that mows for me. Recently, he showed up again, and this time I decided to risk it - to see what trimming he could do to tame my urban jungle.
The first day, I monitored him, and then to my joy discovered he loved to trim bushes, and was meticulous about cleaning up the mess. Within a week, he had pruned my entire yard, and we’d become friends. He’s not from a stable family and the best thing I could do was to give him positive feedback and encouragement. In trimming all of my bushes, he was able to accomplish something I don’t dare try (compliments of osteoarthritis, my balance is somewhat precarious), but, because of my background, I was able to give him suggestions about going to school as well as getting a job. (I may have also promised him two dozen of my fresh chocolate chip cookies when he could prove to me he’d gotten a “real” job.) Today, he knocked on my door and was absolutely glowing with excitement. He now has a full-time job at a nursing home (and I said he’d have his cookies in the morning).
So everything goes back to my philosophy: OA may close some doors, but it can also open many more! There are some things I can no longer do, but there are many things I can do to help others. I’ll continue to say WATCH ME! I CAN DO IT!