Latitudes and Parameters: Crossing Borders With Arthritis

Pattye Snyder Health Guide
  • Because we've been inundated lately with bitter winds and lots of ice and snow, I've been mega homebound and trying to be constructive (notice the term TRYING). I have valiantly been trying to organize my kazillion photos -- not unlike when your mother always told you to put on nice underwear if you were going even on a brief trip. I suppose the reality is, God forbid, that if something should happen to me while living in Africa, neither my family nor my friends would really care about keeping these pictures, and there really are thousands. They just won't realize that I was just a small step away from being another Ansel Adams -- won't they be sorry!!


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    "Arthritis Has Been Vicious Lately"

    Another part of this explosion of organization is that my friend Arthur (you know---Arthritis) has been viciously attacking me lately. I've been back to the part where no position seems to be comfortable, and I seem to ache in places I didn't even know I had.


    My electric mattress pad has helped somewhat, but I can't have it with me all day. The prescription I had been on that helped my aching joints was changed to a generic. In spite of what "they" say, it simply didn't help at all. Of course I also dumped my drawer full of ointments, creams, lotions and potions a few weeks ago. My overzealous, religious fanatic neighbor stopped me yesterday to inform me that he and his wife have been praying for me for protection from witch doctors in Africa. At this point, I wouldn't mind trying a witch doctor. The ones I've met were very nice and they use a lot of natural healing with plants. Of course the neighbor is the same one who offered me paper lawn bags so that I could "do" his lawn after I finished mine (friends like that, I don't need).


    Arthritis is a Border to Cross

    So as I struggle valiantly through this project, I've been thinking a lot about my past travels. My first major exposure to travel was when I was about 5. My dad made a major deal out of stopping the car so we could step over the state line. At the time, I think my sister and I were gravely disappointed to find that you couldn't see anything. Not unlike when my daughter was 2 and she always had to stop at each crack in the cement sidewalk and lift one foot up very high to step over it. Many years later, as my travels began in earnest, I was very disappointed to cross the border between Scotland and Great Britain. The only way we knew we had done it was to see a huge monolith with the name of the country painted on it (not even in pretty paint). I had expected that at least the Royal Pipers would have shown up out of courtesy.



    The first time I crossed the equator in Africa, at least we did have a demonstration with water poured into a bucket showing on one side of the equator, the water would swirl in one direction, and if you stepped over the "line" the water would swirl in the opposite direction. In spite of this demo, two people refused to believe it and said there was a trick. Since I love to learn weird things, I thought it was neat. To add to my enjoyment, I of course had to have a picture of me straddling the equator (so I could tell people that was why I have a split personality).



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    I can see a major correlation between my arthritis, and these boundaries. Arthritis is very much like the borders for many countries: it's there, but only you and the doctor know for sure. Arthritis also imposes many boundaries on the patient. Because of my five surgeries for osteoarthritis and subsequent joint replacements, I am now blessed with a variety of longitudinal scars. Because of osteoarthritis and its continuing progress (I never can figure out why it's called progress), I may have more and more borders that I can't or shouldn't try to cross. My cane or a monopod has become my security (like a passport). I won't leave home without one of them. I've had many people ask me how long it took before the pain from my total hip replacements was totally gone and I could forget that I'm pretty much a robot from the waist down. Unfortunately, I still have twinges of pain in both sides. Not like the excruciating pre-op pain, but enough to remind me that I'm not "all there. Of course some of my friends have claimed that for years!!!

    I think a lot of this is attitude. One of my readers wrote in to ask if it didn't really irritate me when people treated me like I'm handicapped. Kace said "the only handicap is between your ears. I've learned to live with what I have and be eternally grateful to modern medicine that, so far, they can do what they've done for me!!


    Celebrating my 65th On Kilimanjaro

    So back to my Swahili lessons and picture filing. Theoretically, one of these days the snow will melt, the trees will bud, the sun will shine, the crocus will sprout in bloom and the robins will chirp. One day soon, I'll hop onboard a plane to Africa to again glory in the non-stressful life, the peaceful people, and the adventures again in primitive villages in the Bush. I will celebrate my 65th birthday on part of Mount. Kilimanjaro, as a blessing to hard work with doctors, physical therapists, and a lot of sweat and tears on my part.


    I'm not a handicapped person: I have physical challenges that, at times, may hurt or slow me down, but I WILL DO IT! I WILL SUCCEED -- I WON'T ALLOW OSTEOARTHRITISTO TAKE ME OUT!


    Kwa herini

    (Swahili for Good Bye!)


    Read more about Pattye's Journey:

    Horseradish on My Oatmeal: Climbing Kilimanjaro with Osteoarthritis

Published On: February 11, 2008