Osteoarthritis and other Wild Animals
After having spent a few months last summer teaching street kids to grow their own food in a Juvenile Detention center in East Africa, I decided to add a variety of vegetables to my backyard flower gardens. I hadn't grown my own for many years due to the same (somewhat lame) excuses that most people use. I don't have the time. It's a lot of work. I live alone and don't need tons of veggies and, of course, I HAVE ARTHRITIS and simply can't physically do it!
The reality is, if I'm really honest, I am able to do almost anything in spite of my disability and my multitude of artificial joints! I've found that I can somehow find the time for most anything I really want to do. If I have an abundance of produce, I have several friends that are more than willing to take it off my hands. Yes, it CAN be a lot of work, but I didn't have to feed a Third World nation. I just wanted to grow a few herbs and veggies, so I limited the quantity and variety I grew. Lastly, I found that I really CAN physically do this. I remembered to ask for help when I needed it, but found the additional exercise great for my mind as well as my body. This morning, as I watered, I was admiring the proverbial fruits of my labor: I have one green bean (no, not one plant, one BEAN); I also have another summer squash, two zucchini, lots of green tomatoes, and enough cucumbers to start a business. Much to my amusement, I also have four ears of volunteer corn that are almost ready to be picked. I obviously won't gain weight on this "diet," but it has been fun.
Somehow, time has rushed by since I last returned from Africa. Tt might have something to do with the remnants of malaria I had, followed by a broken fibula (thanks arthritis), followed by two surgeries on my foot (again, arthritis) and a lot of physical therapy. In about two months, I will again be returning to Moshi (Tanzania) to volunteer using my skills as a photographer for several African friends with small companies that are based on helping the people of that area.
After my two surgeries in March and a very long recuperation, my surgeon announced that, instead of replacing my second ankle (of course another surgery), he wanted me to try intensive physical therapy to strengthen the muscles, ligaments, and tendons where the ankle should have been. Honestly, this somewhat scared me -- I just knew I'd fall apart, literally. My second thought was -- well, guess that cancels my Africa trip in the Fall. First, I talked with my surgeon, who again evaluated my X-rays and my ankle, then, with a grin, said "Go to Africa and take a ton of pictures but please don't wear high heels in the Bush!"
I have had friends who questioned whether I should return to Africa since I live in an area with few roads -- the paths are incredibly rutted and rocky -- and the major source of transportation is from the hip down, a challenge for an arthritis patient. These friends have also said "What will you do if something happens?" The reality is that "something" could happen when I'm at home in the U.S. or on a business trip in Michigan, or on the Serengeti in Tanzania. I have my braces ready to go for my ankle, knee, and right arm, just in case. I'm off to Africa in a few weeks to help my friends there, as well as to observe and photograph the wildebeest migration --a lifetime dream. If something happens with my arthritis, my African friends and I will deal with it. In the meantime, I refuse to become a victim of osteoarthritis. I refuse to let it completely control my life!