I was separated from my husband in 1987 and we were divorced in 1991. I never remarried. Needless to say, I got somewhat used to doing things for myself. Independence runs deep within me. The idea that I can do it myself without help from anyone.
My brother moved in with me 14 years ago and he was a jack-of-all-trades, able to fix, repair or create just about anything needed around a house. His presence delayed the idea that my independence was slipping away as rapidly as my body’s ability to perform everyday tasks. I could lie to myself and convince myself that I didn’t need any help for ordinary things.
Then, my brother died and left me alone with my disabilities. My body has violently betrayed me in so many ways recently. That betrayal is rheumatoid arthritis, which is uncontrolled. I cannot walk very far, and I have trouble getting dressed, doing laundry, dishes, dusting, or vacuuming. Any big things, like mowing the grass, fixing the broken dryer, or replacing the kitchen faucet doesn’t happen unless I ask for help.
I cannot turn to my family because no one lives near me, so I have to rely on friends. Fortunately, I have some excellent friends who help me. One mows my grass and trims my trees. One drives me to doctor’s appointments and to grocery stores. All that is required is for me to ask.
And that is the hard part. Maybe this will get easier with practice because my arthritis will not go away.
I have been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for many years and recently, I had a flare-up that has lasted for several months. The flare-up started just as my original rheumatologist flew the coop to greener pastures and left me without medical support. It took nearly six months to get in to see the new rheumatologist.
Then, after her tests and blood work, it took another two weeks before the diagnosis was in: rheumatoid arthritis. Well, duh! Well, to be precise, uncontrolled rheumatoid. Well, duh!
At any rate, I went back to the orthopedist, who gave me a cortisone injection in my hip joint and promised that after 2 or 3 days, my hips would feel much better. He was right. My hip does feel better. In all fairness, he did a really nice job of giving me the injection. No shot feels great, but this time, I barely felt the needle when he inserted it. I felt the pressure when he injected the cortisone. But, in 30 seconds, he was finished and I was left with a HUGE purple and black bruise.
I had read somewhere that a person can only feel pain in one place at a time. Or to be more precise, if a person is feeling severe pain in one place, other pains will be less noticeable. All that to say, yes, my hip feels better, but now, my fingers, toes, feet, ankles, elbows, and knees ache from the uncontrolled rheumatoid arthritis.
My doctor has prescribed a round of drugs that could help with the inflammation. I hope she is correct and I can get back to living.
Because my joints are so inflamed, she told me to NOT exercise. Okay, Doc, if you insist. We have to get the inflammation under control so I don’t damage my joints with exercise. Once the damage is done, it cannot be undone.
I worried that I had died the first death when rheumatoid arthritis greatly curtailed my range of motion and activity. You see, I used to be a dancer. To borrow a line from Steve Martin, music gave me “happy feet.” I danced all around my house, in my yard, in my workplace, in clubs and bars. I danced endlessly. It didn’t matter to me when or where. I just danced.
I was never a professional dancer, although I studied ballet dancing when I was a child and a teenager. I was a disco queen when I was a young adult and could match the best dancers on the disco dance floor. I could dance for hours, non-stop, and loved every minute of it. I danced with my children and I danced alone. All I had to do was to hear the music start and I was moving to the beat.
I wanted to be a professional dancer, but I had a conservative mother who insisted that no one makes a living with just dancing and I needed to get my head out of the clouds and learn to type so I would have something to fall back on. And that is what I did. I fell back onto my second choice and spent a lot of time regretting it. But, on the other hand, I was able to feed, shelter, and clothe myself and my three kids without help from others. So, did I really fall back on my second choice? That is something to ponder another day.
One day, my feet started to hurt, and my ankles. It took the doctors a couple of years to finally figure out what was going on with me. With the words, rheumatoid arthritis still ringing in my ears, my happy feet became very unhappy feet. I stopped dancing. Music no longer made my heart race. Music no longer made me smile. Music played and I cried because of my loss.
Maybe my mother knew something I didn’t. Had I tried to pursue a career as a dancer, it would have been cut very short because my body betrayed me.
On a bright shining day a few weeks ago, I realized that I had not actually died that first death when I was sitting in my favorite chair and wiggling to a favorite song. I didn’t couldn’t stand up and dance, but I went through the arm motions of Michael Jackson’s Beat It. It struck me at that moment that I was still a dancer.
I laughed aloud as if I was just resurrected.
I dance in my head and always have. In my mind, I dance like no one is watching–leaping, hopping, twirling, spinning, stepping, dancing. Now, when I dance, I am not limited to a confined area like a stage or a dining room with the table shoved aside. I can dance on the rings of Saturn, through a boreal forest, on top of waves in the ocean, leading a flash mob in a shopping mall. The possibilities are endless and only limited by my imagination.
I went to a doctor yesterday to find out why my hip is hurting. I have been dealing with this for a couple of months and I finally decided that maybe I needed some professional help because people are getting tired of hearing my involuntary pterodactyl screech every time I stand up or sit down. Plus, I have finally gotten really grouchy about this whole my-life-would-be-great-if-I-didn’t-have-hips routine I go through every day.
I have been dealing with Rheumatoid Arthritis for quite sometime and I assumed that the hippy pain was because of that. Exercise makes my joints feel better, but exercise is a delicate balancing act of doing just enough to feel better. One leg lift too many and I am in more agony for 3-4 days. Therefore, off to a doctor to find out what can be done.
Meanwhile, back in the gym… I have been “babying” my hip and now my knees have started to hurt. Somehow, I find it difficult to see how my situation has improved.
Hence, my visit to the doctor–Dr. Eye-Candy if you are interested, because I firmly believe if one must visit a doctor, then visit a very pretty one and Dr. Eye-Candy is so very pretty. Dr. Candy tells me my knees hurting is because of normal wear and tear. Okay. But what about my hip?
Dr. Candy says, “You have arthritis, but what you don’t have is any cartilage left. Your bones are scraping together. However, we can’t do a hip replacement until you have lost about 5000 pounds. Just sayin'”
Me: What has caused this unfortunate cartilage losing episode?
Dr. Candy: Normal wear and tear. Your hip pain is normal.
Me: You have got to be kidding me. It is not normal for someone to scream in agony when they sit and normal to scream in agony again when they stand up? I mean, I have been waiting to see you for nearly forty-five minutes and plenty of people stood up and sat down and there was barely any screaming at all.
Me: So, how is this normal?
Dr: It is normal for someone with RA (rheumatoid arthritis).
Me: So, what do we do?
Dr: Eventually, hip replacement, but not until you lose 50,000 pounds.
Me: It went from 5000 pounds to 50,000? That’ll take more than a minute. What do I do in the meantime? Screech in agony on a regular basis?
Dr: No. We can give you cortisone injections. But cortisone injections will make you gain weight.
Me: Kinda going in the wrong direction there, Doc.
Dr: Really, it will make you feel better… we think.
Dr: All we have to do it stick a big needle in your hip…
Me: Now wait just a cotton picking minute. How can sticking a big needle in my hip make it feel better?
Dr: It just will.
OK. Maybe he isn’t big on explanations, but he certainly is pretty to look at. Also, he is fun to argue with. These young pretty doctors have no clue and are totally lost when they encounter a fully mature adult female. So, instead of sticking a big needle in my hip, and after much debate and forced explanations, I opted for a change in oral medication.