Sunday, August 27, 2006

That which remains…

“When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Remember all that blood work I had done back in July? Well, all those results are back in, and a couple other things were done. Everything from thyroid to lupus to Crohn’s has been eliminated. Even gout, which does run in my family a bit.

As improbable as it seems, at least to me, what remains for me is osteoarthritis. This is the most common form of arthritis, caused by simple degeneration of the cartilage between joints. There is no cure for it; it’s just one of those things that you have to suck up and walk off. I have classic symptoms, classic physical manifestations (little spurs around my joints, and a kind of ‘flat’ look on x-rays around my affected joints – which is most of them) (argh).

I learned an important medical fact, though, which I shall now pass along to you: The phrase “But I’m too young for that!” has absolutely no curative powers whatsoever.



I’m trying not to be an angst-machine over it. Because really, it is pointless to endlessly whine about what you can’t change. Whining is only appropriate when it can, say, get you a better table at a restaurant – it doesn’t make me feel any better, and it surely doesn’t help the mood of the person on the receiving end.

But since I write this blog mostly for me: WAH!!! THIS SUCKS!!!!!!!

It is life-impacting in a big old way. I’m downright shocked that something that hurts this much is ‘only’ arthritis. I can’t do things I used to love doing. I can’t go for long drives or walks or even sit through a damned movie. Even the stairs in my own house can sometimes look like Mt. Everest – you mean I’ve got to get up that, just so I can go to bed?!

I’m finding that even things I’d really, really love to do are just not worth the pain I’m going to have to go through to do them. From going to parties to attending concerts, the pleasure isn’t worth the discomfort I’m going to have to get through.

It isn’t that the aches and pains are new. I’ve had body aches after periods of (in)activity for years. Woken up with stiff joints and all that for years and years. Laughed about how ‘it ain’t the age, it’s the mileage’. Been taking glucosamine / chondroitin tablets for two years. Said over morning coffee that One Of These Days, I Am So TOTALLY Going To Get Arthritis…Someday.

It’s just that the discomfort curve seems…rather steep. As though ‘Someday’ arrived way too fast – one minute out there beyond the edge of the horizon and today SMACK! Broken nose!

One day I was ‘mildly achy after (in)activity’, and the next day I was sitting in my car crying after getting off the train home from work, because I hurt so much. The thought of having to drive myself home was unbearable, but there was no other option.

My doctor has opined that there are two factors to my perceived ‘steep curve’. One is that I actually have a high tolerance for this kind of pain, a tolerance granted to me by my long-distant past as an athlete. I have played basketball on a sprained ankle, run a 10 mile cross-country race within a fortnight of having my appendix out (pulling stitches all the way) and gone on 20 mile ‘peak bagger’ hikes with a torqued knee. Muscled through eight years of four hour daily commutes, ignoring how each day was just a little harder on me than the day before…

All of which highlights Point the Second: I’ve got a lot of mileage on these joints of mine, and quite a few of those miles were downright stupid. I was running marathons at age twelve, wearing Payless shoes (read as, ‘ballet slippers with sneaker styling’) and with a coach who was also our Civics teacher. I tended to muscle on through the discomfort, ignoring the clear signals from my body that I Was Hurting Me.

I cared a lot more about winning than how much it hurt to get there, and now I’m paying the price. I’m still doing it, too. I really should quit my job at this point, relieve my joints of the stress of even the occasional commute and the daily pounding of the keyboard for eight (twelve) hours, relieve my mind of the stress of not being able to keep up…but ooooooh no. I’m still trying to win.

Ach, well.

I wouldn’t undo anything, really. When I look back at all the things I’ve done that may or may not have contributed to my current joint distress…well. I wouldn’t trade them. I loved the basketball, and the running. I’ve climbed mountains. I’ve camped in the snow at the top of waterfalls. I’ve seen mountain lions (stalking me, in fact, which was not fun at the time but makes for a good story if you aren’t actually eaten by them). I’ve climbed trees.

I think that even if I had known at the time that I was setting myself up for this, I wouldn’t have stopped. Funny, that. You’d think you would…but I really don’t think I would have done.

Because I’m not stopping now, either. I’m still insisting on going for walks, pushing my children on swings, getting down on the floor and wrestling with them, knitting, working…when time and kids permit, I’m sure I’ll go hiking again.

With a bottle of Celebrex in one pocket, and a hipflask of whisky in the other…


21st Century Mom said...

OMG - THAT IS SO UNFAIR! Lots of people pound the crap out of their bodies for years and don't get osteoarthritis - you just got dealt a dirty hand. Really dirty. I know the whining and the indignation don't really change things but you deserve an unlimited pass to Elmer Fudd moments where you run up the hill and just scream!!!

I hope someone comes up with a solution. I know arthritis is a biggie which means it is profitable for the drug companies to find a way to fix it and that's good news.

I'm so sorry you have to deal with this. No fair - no fair at all!

PipneyJane said...

Oh, hon! I'm so sorry. I wish I could miracle the pain away for you.


- Pam

Anonymous said...

Oh, Tama, I'm so sorry. Hope there are some terrific wonder drugs out there for you.