Pain, Arthritis, and Famous
Who am I? I can barely recognize myself because the rheumatoid arthritis has severely deformed my hands, my feet and my legs. The first 50 years of my life from 1841 to 1891 must have been in another body because this one cannot even hold up my favorite pipe or roll my favorite cigarettes. This decrepit shell has really failed me now that one side is nearly completely paralyzed. The doctors say I had a stroke, but I don’t know if that is right because my neck hurts me something fierce. Luckily, I am ambidextrous so that I can continue my work at creating beauty.
Although I have been offered the latest chemicals like antipyrine, I prefer not to use treatments that could interfere with my creativity. My goal is to just keep moving. So, I have taken up juggling daily to keep my arms and hands limber. I also enjoy playing billiards because I have to get into so many different poses just for a chance to beat my wife. With each bend in the knee or twist of the arm, I believe I can maintain my physical abilities just a little while longer before the arthritis completely overtakes me. And nothing is more challenging than a good game of bilboquet.
Lately, I have been visiting France to partake in the warm waters at the numerous spas such as Vichy, Bourbonne-les-Bains, and Aix-les-Bains. All my poor aching joints feel so much better immersed in warm water. If I cannot go to a spa, then I keep my hands and feet wrapped in wool. Anything to stay warm, even cuddling with cats while I work with my paints.
When it gets difficult to work the canvas, I use my special easel which moves the canvas for me. My latest painting that required my rolling canvas is called Les Grandes Baigneuses. I use other adaptive devices like my walking sticks with rubber tips that will not slip or my wheelchairs that allow me visit the galleries still. But nothing has been more important to me than my attitude. When the pain wakes me up at night, I just grab a paintbrush and create something beautiful to get my mind off the crippling pain. As I told my friend Matisse, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains”. That is why I still paint despite the ravages that rheumatoid arthritis has done to my body.
Even you may not be able to recognize me with my deformed hands and crippled body. Who am I? I am Pierre-Auguste Renoir; I am famous, I am in pain, and I have arthritis.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.