There are some things I’ll never be able to do. That’s the truth. It’s not one of those situations where if I put my mind to it I’ll be able to achieve it.
No. Not the case at all.
There are activities I’ll never be able to do again because of my osteoarthritis. Here’s a short list:
- Play basketball
- Walk up/down stair normally
- Walk normally
Just because osteoarthritis takes something from you, doesn’t mean you have to ignore that activity. My ankle OA has taken away backpacking. It hurts (emotionally, not physically) not being able to backpack anymore. And it’s hard seeing others do what I so badly want to do. But I haven’t stopped paying attention. I can still participate to some degree. I may never get to the top of Mt Whitney (I did!) or make other hiking trips on my Wish List (I won’t):
But I can help those who are able to fulfill their dreams, and a little piece of me is able to make it happen as well.
Is there is someone who is doing what you can only dream of, show your support for that person. Follow them on FB, Instagram, Pinterest or another social media outlet. Buy something they endorse. If it makes you feel part of the adventure, in some small way, then participate!
It’s important to not let osteoarthritis take away everything you enjoy. It can take away your ability to participate in something, but it doesn’t have to take away your love of that activity.
That’s something I’m dealing with now. I can’t go backpacking anymore and seeing others making the trips I had planned on doing hurts. It’s part jealousy, part feeling sorry for myself. I’m not yet at the stage where I can follow or read about all the adventures I see others doing that I once had planned on taking myself. I’m working on it, slowly, but it will come. I just need to find my own way to participate.
How do you participate? When you see someone doing an activity you can no longer do, how does that make you feel?
I’m only a stone’s throw away from the operating room to have my right ankle fused because of chronic osteoarthritis. I’m so close, I can see my surgeon’s face as he waits for me inside. He’s wrapped up in his scrubs along with the anesthesiologist and nurses.
Whether the ankle fusion happens next year or three years from now, that’s unknown. The only thing that is known is that it’s going to happen.
Since the when is unknown, I feel a greater sense of urgency to cross off a few items from my bucket list while my ankle is still healthy enough. One of those items is taking my dream hiking trip on the High Sierra Trail, which I’m scheduled to leave for later this week.
After this hike is over, I’ll still take short weekend trips, but those will only require a little walking, nothing like a 70-mile, 10-day hike through the Sierras. This is it. This is the one.
While visiting my doctor to discuss what this hike would mean for the health of my ankle, we both felt that it is not the best idea. We talked about the chances of feeling discomfort during and especially after the hike as well as damaging the ankle even more. While I was able to get a cortisone shot to help with any discomfort during the hike, it’s only temporary. What’ll happen after is more of the unknown.
I’ve been fortunate enough to remain pretty active for a long time. But now my osteoarthritis is dictating what I can and cannot do physically. When trying to manage chronic OA at the age of 38, it’s important that I know my limits and have a sense of realistic hope for my activity levels. I’ve finally come to the acceptance that it’s time to move on from hiking and find another activity to pursue.
When I return from my hike in mid-September, it’ll be time to find a new hobby. But I’ll be confident in my approach to find that hobby because of the way I’ve approached previous barriers created by my osteoarthritis. Below are three ways I’ve been able to approach those barriers:
1. Accept reality: Knowing that it’s time to move on helps make taking that first step that much easier in looking for something else.
2. Be proactive: For years I’ve been working hard to do what I can to remain healthy and be out ahead of my osteoarthritis limitations. I’ll be able to draw on that experience to help find out what’s next.
3. Keep an open mind: I don’t know what the experience will be like as I search for something else. But being open to new experiences will allow me to find the best fit for the next stage in managing my osteoarthritis.
There are a lot of unknowns about what’ll happen once the final hike is over, the health of my ankle being only one of them. But I’m not only looking forward to the taking this amazing trip, but for the adventure that will come after it as well.
Originally posted on The Mighty
From Ankle Braces to Hiking Boots: How I went from Fighting Osteoarthritis to Planning My 110 Mile Dream Hike
January 15, 2014. Sitting on the examination table I scan the room. There is a replica of a skeleton in the corner and pictures of the human body showing the skeletal structure, tendons and muscles, and various joints hang on the walls. The paper between me and the table crinkles every time I move.
On the desk is a model of the ankle, one of those where you can see how all the bones and tendons fit worked together. The model is broken.
I think that’s a sign of things to come.
I walk out of the office in what is my first of 4 ankle braces, and 1 cast, I’ll wear in 2014.
Why 4 ankle braces you ask?
The osteoarthritis in my right ankle decided it wanted to make itself be heard…and felt.
The other week I was in Wisconsin to visit family and friends. On the way back to San Francisco, I had some time to kill before my flight so I decided to walk around the terminal at O’Hare Airport in Chicago to stretch out and do a little people watching. O’Hare is a busy airport so you see all types of people heading in every direction. From businessmen in suits to vacationers in jean shorts and everything in between. If you wait long enough, you’ll see a wide range of travelers.
After about 25 minutes of walking around, I stood off to the side and leaned up against a wall when a lady approached me. I instantly recognized her from my walk through the terminal
She approached me with a quizzical look on her face and asked, “What is that in the side pocket of your backpack?”
“Oh great!” she said with a relief. “When I saw that I was thinking ‘He’s way too young and athletic looking to need that as a walking aid.’ So I’m happy to hear that’s what it is for and that you don’t need it for support.”
“Yeah, nothing like that. It provides a little extra support when I’m walking over rocks and uneven riverbeds” I chuckled.
Yes, I did lie to her, but it was only a little lie since what I told her was also part truthful. I do use the trekking pole for balance with I’m fly fishing. But when I travel I also bring it along to use for support if my ankle gets too tired.
I lied because I didn’t want to get into talking about my osteoarthritis.
Even though I don’t mind letting people know about my osteoarthritis, there are times when I just don’t want to talk about it. At that time, I was relaxed and enjoying the moment. Having to explain that I need the trekking pole for support because my ankle is an arthritic mess would have brought my mood down. And selfishly, I didn’t want that. And I’m perfectly OK with that decision.
I don’t want to lie about or cover-up my osteoarthritis. In fact, when people ask about my condition I’m usually more than happy to explain what’s going on. I hope that discussion changes the person’s perception that young adults do suffer from osteoarthritis, regardless of how we look. But being able to pick and choose when and how much I talk about my osteoarthritis is a way of dealing with the emotional rollercoaster it creates.
When you’re in a similar situation, how will you react?
- Talk with the person openly about your osteoarthritis
- Change the subject
- Just let the other person know that you’re not up for talking about it right now
Whatever your decision, the important thing is
I’ve spent the entire day on the floor, propped up against my couch so I could watch TV. It’s one of those days where my ankle osteoarthritis was really inflamed and stiff so doing just about anything was out the window.
When my ankle hurts, it causes my knees and hips to ache as well because I limp when walking around. I compensate so much for my bad ankle that my knees, hips, and left ankle bear more of my bodyweight, so they get fatigued as well. That’s how I ended up on the floor all day.
Too sore to move.
While this doesn’t happen as often as it used to, it’s still something I have to deal with as a result of my ankle osteoarthritis. But when those days do happen, it can be mentally draining to think about wasting the entire day sitting on my couch, or floor, instead of hanging out with friends or family, going backpacking and fishing in the mountains, or just doing daily activities
Days like these can feel like a huge waste. Even the smallest task takes so much more energy and focus to accomplish. To get through these days, I needed to figure out a way to accept that they’re gong to happen and not allow them to get me down. I had to embrace my Zero Day.