Age 69. Made in New Zealand. I was born and schooled in Hastings, spent thirty years living in Whakatane. In my retirement years, I now live in Tauranga with my husband and a ning-nong calico cat. I’m a published writer, however, these days write for enjoyment only.
I started on a fast-moving arthritis pathway in my mid-sixties and now have severe arthritis in my feet, moderate in knees, neck and hands. I have also been diagnosed as having Fibromyalgia which is an added unwanted pain. My motto in life is to walk down the middle of the road, which must work as I haven’t been run over yet.
She was young, she was pretty and she was smiling. There I sit – not so young, not so pretty and definitely not smiling. All the same, I’m going to hang onto her every word, because you see, I found this lady inside my computer trapped in a self-help video. She says she’s going to help me manage my arthritis. So together we are a team of two – the one who knows, and the one who needs to know.
I start off enthusiastically with the first helpful hint: “Inflammation management is the key to controlling arthritis. Do make sure your medications are correct and that your team of health professionals is up to date with your needs.” Well, in real life my health professional is my general practitioner. I see her every three months, she writes out a prescription for ‘the usual’ and asks the question, “Is there anything else you want?” I’m gently guided out the door the moment my 15-minute appointment time is up so others aren’t kept waiting. Having waved medical insurance goodbye due to unaffordable old-age premiums, if I want treatment other than what I receive at present, I must wait in line at the hospital or pay. Both can be painful; one tests my patience, the other empties the wallet.
The video lady’s second piece of advice is, “Quality sleep is important. Choose a bedroom that is both calm and quiet. Keep the room at the right temperature. Make sure your mattress and pillow are replaced as recommended, go to bed at the same time each night (yes, I do that). If you are not getting enough sleep, talk to your health professionals who may, if the circumstances are right, be able to prescribe a sleeping-pill.” I do not have a choice of where my bedroom is situated. I also have no control over what part of the bed Big Furry Cat wants to sleep, which can be somewhat disruptive. However, on the plus side, I do buy a new pillow (from time to time), but am still in love with the old but flash latex mattress which over the years has moulded to my body-shape. As my health professional(s) and yours truly are not keen on sleeping pill consumption, I shall pass on this one.
The smiling lady smiles even broader when she reads a list of foods I should not eat, starting off with my favourites – eggs, nuts, citrus fruit, dairy, sugar (which means no yummy cakes?) My tummy grumbles as the list gets longer. “What are you going to feed me?” it questions. However, it is when the ‘alcohol’ word comes up on the screen that I shut my ears and eyes and pretend I heard and saw wrongly. All this ‘go without’ is too much. I think I should stick to the “All things in moderation” philosophy, so quickly move on to hint number four.
“Without exercise your arthritis is going to get worse,” says the smiling woman. Well, I did know that before I started watching this video – exercise, exercise, exercise is the key to a healthy body and mind. A few years ago I’d walk fast for five kilometres daily on the treadmill and think nothing of it. I remind myself of this as I now hobble upon two misshapen feet that hate me and knees that think they belong in the Middle Ages when torture and dungeons were all the rage. By the time they have supported me while I carry out the day’s necessities and maybe limped around the supermarket, they don’t want any more ‘exercising’. They want to sit quietly watching me while I putter around on Facebook, or play Solitaire. Right, now that is settled, it’s time to move on to number five.
This time the young lady gives me a more serious look as she asks, “Do changes in the weather make your arthritis worse?” While I’m waiting for an answer, she shakes her head. “No, the weather has nothing to do with arthritis pain-level changes. You are simply looking for a reason why you are in more pain, so naturally the weather gets the blame.” Then she smiles – a sympathetic smile but nonetheless the last straw for me, the straw that breaks this old camel’s back. I smile a wicked smile back at her as I hit the off button, which immediately silences this modern day Florence Nightingale.
How dare she tell me that weather has no effect on this body of mine – a body that nearly danced with joy in February when the summer heat caressed my afflicted joints? The hot summer sun even put a smile on my face and for a short moment of time, made me feel that maybe – just maybe – my arthritis could get better. What a fool I am. The ‘better’ word should not be in my dictionary. Come the first frost of winter, the cold seeps in through thick thermal socks while pain shoots down from the heavens like a squadron of suicidal hornets. By the third frost, the foot joints stiffen even more. I walk like a clumsy geisha girl with tiny, ungainly, flat-footed steps, each one producing pain signals that hit the brain. Grannies for generations have told the world that their arthritis is affected by weather. How dare they rewrite the granny rulebooks?
I do my relaxation breathing: In through the nose, hold, out through the nose, one gentle in-out after the other until I feel calmness seeping. I vow I’ll never watch a self-help video again. These bright young, smiling health professionals do not live on my planet.