Facing Forward is a series that shares the lives of people living with arthritis and other invisible chronic illnesses. The goal of the series is to see how we are similar and how we are different - and to remind us to keep moving forward because we aren't alone!
Diagnoses: Osteoarthritis; Degenerative Disc Disease; and Degenerative Joint Disease of the spine.
Age at Diagnoses: 47
How are you currently treating your conditions?
I am currently treating my condition with a combination of lifestyle changes including walking 3 miles 3 times per week and attending aqua aerobics once per week. I also use a lot of meds, including painkillers, muscle relaxers, nerve dampers and anti-inflammatories. I attend physiotherapy once per week and practice daily range of motion exercises. I use daily supplements also: turmeric, fish oil, glucosamine, and vitamin D supplements. I attend weekly pain psychology appointments and monthly pain management and orthopedic appointments. I have had a lot of steroid injections, facet joint injections, and nerve root blocks both lumbar and cervical spine. I have had lumbar surgery where I had a discectomy and decompression of L5/S1 and spur removal and am now preparing for fusion of cervical spine.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
I think the biggest challenge I have faced since diagnosis has been trying to find acceptance of my condition. I have seriously struggled with this. I was a very active person juggling family, work, social life, and looking forward to enjoying an early retirement with my husband. This diagnosis and the constant demands that it puts on me have changed me from the person I was. I have had to quit working, driving, and socializing. I have become very dependent on my family now. I miss my old self.
What are your favorite tips and tricks for managing everyday tasks?
My tips are to accept that you can no longer do certain tasks and to ask for help with the things you struggle with.
How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
I began to focus on the things that I can do and not so much on the things that I can't. I rediscovered my love of sewing and recently started an Angel Gown Program in my local town. This has given me a renewed sense of purpose and a feeling that I can still make a difference. I try to keep it in the day and not attempt to look too far forward.
If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
To stop smoking earlier and to take care of my back.
Do you have a blog you would like to share?
I don’t have a blog, but here is my Angel Gown Program.
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