Cactus and Icicles

Pattye Snyder Health Guide
  • I, like many Midwesterners, am getting a MAJOR case of cabin fever and continue to ask myself why I live in this part of the country. After enduring several days of icestorms with dangerously sub-zero temperatures, we were blessed yesterday with a heatwave of 5 degrees and a blizzard. Although we received several inches of snow in a few short hours, I knew that I really needed to pick up a refill on one of my prescriptions. After driving less than a mile with ZERO visibility, I decided that absolutely nothing could be as important as my safety, so returned home empty- handed to read, make chicken soup, and weather out the storm. Today, the air is crisp and clean and the wind has died down. We’re only supposed to get about 3-5 more inches of snow, and we’re to reach a balmy temperature of almost 9 above zero (maybe time for shorts and sandals?).
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    In a strange way, the weather is almost like my Osteoarthritis for me. I do have to “weather” some really tough times—it can be really miserable, unpredictable, and harsh, yet I can have gloriously sunny and storm-free (pain-free) times. I know deep down that there’s little I can do to prevent some of the progress of my disease (I STILL don’t know why it’s called “progress”)! I continue to hope for more successes in Arthritis research and innovative medical solutions. It helps me weather the tough challenges when I know that the sun and Spring flowers will be coming, and I know that by following my doctors’ orders, exercising when I can, and trying to keep a positive attitude will make a difference for me.

    In the midst of a recent painful setback (I sprained my knee), I was contacted by a professional in the field of arthritis—asking me questions about my living successfully with joint replacements and OA. After thinking about it, I said that for me, the most important thing has been to have a good support system. Although my family doesn’t live close by, I DO have some incredible friends who are willing to listen and be encouraging. I also talked about how a therapist (not just the PT type) has helped me learn to walk (limp) through the stages of my disease with a healthier acceptance. When asked what I wished the surgeons had told me ahead of time, I replied that I don’t think anyone who hasn’t actually gone through these experiences can really relate. The professionals can explain the “mechanics” of the process, but so much also tends to depend on the individual patient (I’ve been amazed at how radically different my recovery has been with hip replacement #2 than #1).

    In spite of frustrations such as spraining the knee, I know that I can get stronger. I’ve learned to think toward the future of what I CAN and WILL do rather than what is no longer realistic for me. Little changes help make my life easier. I use wheelchair assistance when needed in airports (it’s very much worth the tip!). I now ask for handicapped accessible rooms in hotels that have no elevators (stairs can be EXCRUCIATING at times). A planned hiking trip to photograph wildflowers in northern Minnesota has been changed to a road-trip with friends. Even a camping trip in Alaska this summer has been adapted to a cabin and fishing (a new activity for me!).

  • The first part of May, I’ll be flying to Phoenix to visit a friend and photograph the Desert Botanical Gardens in bloom as well as sunrises and sunsets on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. I had hoped to ride a mule to the bottom of the canyon someday, but realize that my steel hips wouldn’t make the ride comfortable for me (OR the mule!).
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    Again, I’m learning to be realistic about what I CAN do. Keeping a sense of humor has also been a major survival skill for me. As I write, I hear the snowplows loudly scraping up and down my street. When I peeked out the window to “supervise” their progress, I discovered that they had again managed to carefully plow me in—the end of my drive looked like Antarctica! (But I’ll show them—I have 4-wheel drive and will blast through the mess to merrily continue my day!!)

    The sun will come out, the icicles will begin to melt, my hips and legs will get stronger—there’s still a huge world out there left for me to discover with special friends, awesome adventures, and incredible memories!

Published On: February 16, 2007