Skating on New Surfaces
I have found that OA (as well as most other forms of arthritis for many people) can be a very discouraging and challenging disorder. At times, I am almost able to forget Osteoarthritis is invading my body. On other days, my friend Arthur (you know—arthritis), makes himself painfully present. I used to keep all of my thoughts and fears about my problems with OA to myself; however, much to my relief, I’ve discovered that I’m NOT terminally unique. It really does help me to talk to interested people about what is going on medically in my body with OA.
Recently, the Arthritis Foundation published a research update stating that “the results of a Glucosamine Chondroitin combination seemed to be no more effective as a pain reliever than a placebo.” I have been on this regimen for quite awhile, not as a pain reliever, but more for the possibilities of helping to build more cartilage. I’m definitely not a researcher, but, for me, I’ll continue to take this in the hope that it MIGHT help. My own criteria for taking or not taking a pill is that I have to be assured that it will do no harm, have little or no side effects, and might possibly help my condition.
As my OA progresses (remember—I’m not sure why it’s called progress), I know that I have changed in many ways. I’m gradually making the transition from wanting to impress others, to doing what I need to do for my own health, safety, and well-being. After having been somewhat of a prisoner in my own home for a few weeks pre-op and 3 months post-op due to pain and problems with mobility, I decided to venture back into my happy world of adventure and travel yesterday. I grabbed a camera to go on a “shoot”—photographing eagles along a river in Illinois. Well, actually, I was scheduled to do this a week ago, but with ice storms two days in a row, I rescheduled. Walking is enough of a challenge right now, and I really can’t afford to fall. So, although we were facing another dire forecast, I made arrangements for a friend to dog-sit, and hit the road.
In spite of my years of adventure, I was excited and nervous and spent the night before tossing and turning in bed like a kid before Christmas! Much to my pleasure, the weather forecast was wrong, and we had a balmy day (22 degrees) with grey skies, and lots of snow on the ground, but no ice. We had awesome presentations from state forest rangers about bald eagles and then ventured to viewing areas. In spite of the high water on the river, and the warm temperatures we’ve had recently, we were able to discover several eagles, chubby deer happily munching in the forest, and a few birds like great blue heron.
I was nervous about climbing the formidable stone steps to the viewing site, but figured I was there for a reason, so accepted the challenge. It never ceases to amaze me how a flight of 10 or so steps suddenly looms over me like it’s become about 100 steps! I was dragging up the stairs, with a mighty grip on the hand rail, when a woman behind me said “gee, I really admire you—that looks hard—did you hurt your leg in an accident?” I just gave her kind of a half-grin and kept going. (If she only knew!!). Yes, I AM frustrated!
I’ve been diligently working out several days a week and am now up to about 1 hour of cardio daily. This trip screamingly suggested to me that I need to work more on walking and stair climbing. Thank goodness for friends who are willing to listen to me grump and groan about my challenges (but still love me anyway). I naively had thought that having another artificial hip would be no big deal—after all, I had made it through the first hip replacement just fine, thank you. There are many more elements to consider now with hip #2. On the first, I still had a strong original hip on the other side to compensate for balance and mobility issues, but now, of course, that’s radically changed.
Yesterday was a good wakeup call for me (once I got over briefly feeling sorry for myself). I DO ask for help when I really need it. After talking to a ranger yesterday for help finding a frozen waterfall to photograph (that wouldn’t involve a five-day hike on snow and ice), she recommended I buy a product called Yaktrax—it’s somewhat on the same principle of tire chains for cars. This is a light duty traction device that fits over the shoe or boot. Heavy rubber cables slip up over the front, back, and sides of the boot with a tightly woven spring-like material on the sole of the boot. They are easy to pull on and take off and INEXPENSIVE. A lady I met said that she’s a runner and wears them all winter for safety.
At times I do get “down” because of my OA. Those extra painful days—climbing up and down stairs, sometimes just walking on a flat surface ( I didn’t realize how much I took walking for granted until it became a project for me)—these are a few of the challenges that, realistically, will never go away for me. I am learning many survival techniques to help. I’m learning to step out of my box, my comfort zone. As an avid reader, I’ve never liked mystery books, but found that I enjoy them now. I’m learning to laugh at me—I’ve found that most things are really not that important. Most of all, I’m finding that I have to want something badly enough to achieve it—it’s vital for me to have goals and dreams, and actually act on them.
Yesterday was a new beginning. I’m definitely NOT where I want to be physically—I’ll never win an Olympic speed skating race, but I CAN keep working on walking better. I probably won’t be doing the Iditarod next year, but I can strengthen my knees and legs to make stair climbing less traumatic.
I DO think about many of the people I’ve met in my travels—the guy I went canoeing with in the Everglades whose hobby is wheelchair racing all over Europe ( he’s a double amputee due to a car accident)—the professor friend who has a hobby of mountain climbing (by the way—he’s blind)—the guy I saw on TV on a Mt. Everest climb who has two artificial legs—even the gourmet chef I met on a wilderness island who carries all of his favorite herbs and spices with him for cooking (who had both legs burned off in a factory fire).
So, for me, it’s attitude and choices—for today, I CHOOSE to enjoy the magic of travel and adventure (even the fears that sometimes accompany them). I’ll try NOT to let OA derail me for long. I KNOW what I need to do to get to the places I want to go and experience the world “out there” that is waiting. OA can be an “equal opportunity destroyer,” but I accept the challenge, and choose not to let it totally destroy me!
Published On: January 30, 2007