For those of us enduring the wide variety of challenges and pain with osteoarthritis, it can be very hard to keep a positive outlook! For me, my osteoarthritis has produced a vast array of emotions. I feel major frustration at times; not only with my progression of "disintegration," but with insurance companies (you've all been THERE), pain, joint replacements that have failed, prescriptions that help or don't and some of the things I can no longer do. Since I'm half stainless steel thanks to my multiple joint replacement surgeries, my mountain climbing is becoming more limited and I probably shouldn't play racquetball or go down a ski jump any time soon. I sometimes become angry at my joints -- they are literally letting me down.
I've always been a very physically-active person, and find some of the tiniest things make me mad at my body. After years of having a small landscape business, I've admitted to myself that I may have to give up the physical part now and just continue the designing. The true joy of it for me has been down on my knees and working with the dirt to help make something beautiful. My reality is though, with two artificial hips, two artificial ankles, and dactyllization on toes of both feet (joint removal), it takes me longer to get down to the ground and back up to a standing position than it would take to just plant a glorious garden. I won't completely quit, I'll admit I'm too stubborn, but sometimes we have to face reality! I also have brief periods of FEAR. At what point will this stop? Will I end up permanently unable to do much of anything? Will my insurance benefits be changed or cut? Will my replaced joints fail? I don't dwell on these things, but I DO think about them. I am very excited at the progress doctors are making almost daily in joint replacements, medical treatments, new medicines and other surgeries to help the osteoarthritis patient live a less pain-filled and less-restricted life! I also have a major attitude of gratitude in that we live in a country where good medical help is usually readily available! I suppose, for me, my major survival skill is that I've been able to keep a sense of humor through all of this.
I've mentioned in other columns about my recent "trials" with osteoarthritis that my fibula in my left leg fractured in December due to my disintegrating ankle. Many friends were amazed that I wasn't feeling incredible pain, but the reality is I've learned to live with a certain level of pain most of the time. For the last 2 months I've had an air cast on my leg. I started out on crutches (truly fun in snow/ice country) and then was promoted to a cane and a cast and have become quite skilled at what I call "defensive walking." I always have my cane "at the ready " (outside my leg in a crowd) to prevent being accidentally stepped on or tripped! At home now, I also have a brace to wear instead of a cast. (See, I'm making "progress!") Soon, I will be having two foot surgeries (thanks to osteoarthritis) and when those are healed, they'll fix my ankle. To add to my never-ending challenges, I'm being re-evaluated for possible hip joint replacement. Not really a big deal, but it was already replaced once two years ago and has never been "right" -- in fact I told the surgeon that the hip goes out more than I do!!!
For me, the scariest part of all of this is HEALTH INSURANCE! I retired 11 years ago from teaching and, although my pension is awful, my health insurance has been very good. In June, I turned 65, which as many are aware, brings up a whole new set of challenges with Medicare. I applied for it in April before I moved to Africa for a few months. I was told by them at the time that I didn't need Part B because I had other good coverage. HOWEVER, when I returned from Africa a few months later, I found that my pension had been decreased to "cover what Part B should have covered." Then I was told I could save money by applying for Part B but it wouldn't go into effect for 4 months. I won't bore you with the rest of the details, but it's frustrating, very scary, and I ended up paying for a few things out-of-pocket that I should not have. Just a "word of caution" to our readers: ASK---ASK---ASK and keep good notes. Document everything you are told -- names of people you talk to, dates, and even times.
I feel, as I'm sure many of our readers do, that osteoarthritis is only for the "strong-willed." If you wish to survive, you have to be ready to fight, to be actively involved in your medical treatments, to question when you need to, to follow doctor's orders, to do your therapy and to live a more-fulfilled life.
I looked out the window as I got out of bed this morning and it's snowing as usual. It's not icy, windy, or bitterly cold. We just have a world of softly falling snow, a snow-globe world.
As a nature photographer, osteoarthritis won't really destroy my world. I think I'll put on my YakTrax and go photograph bald eagles!
"I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order." -- John Burroughs
Published On: February 05, 2009