It’s kind of hard for me to believe that I am where I am. The joint pain I suffer has been niggling on and off for several years, but now it is constant. It is my biggest health issue and it saddens and frightens me that it is as bad as it is.
I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in Oct 2016. I have hallux rigidus in my right toe, which means I can’t bend it properly anymore because of several osteophytes (little bony protusions that grow and reduce joint mobility so the inflammed joint gets some protection).
My left big toe is slowly getting worse – I am afraid of what this means.
I already walk with a mild limp and roll my foot outwards to avoid bending the toe joint. I can’t walk long distances and running is out of the question. The consultant recommended an orthotic, but my vanity has kept it away (for now).
My treatment options are cortisone injections and then a cheilectomy (osteophyte removal), and finally complete bone fusion.
What is scarier is that the pain is now in my thumbs, wrists, elbows, knees, hips and spine. Those joints all click and crack when just a few years ago they were silent. I can’t open jars, fixing seatbelts hurt my hands and when I bend down it sometimes feels like the shooting pain in my knee will bring me to the ground.
At night my hips feel locked and I have to shift around in bed until they settle, raising my knees to my chest and back again until I free the joint.
My spine feels like a tower of pumice stones that are on the verge of crumbling away.
Joint pain aside, I have the usual middle-aged mother’s complaints. Exhaustion, inability to sleep properly, irritability and a fair dose of anxiety and probably mild depression (over the state of my health, ageing appearance, and the state of the house mainly).
My body is soft and weak, and I am scared of physical exertion because for the first time in my life I can sense the underlying fragility of my structure.
A fall, a twist, could leave me broken.
Isn’t that how you’re supposed to feel when you are nearing the end of your life? Afraid of breaking?
Not at 42, surely.
I have also been suffering recurrent bouts of fever, chills and joint pain. I’ve had five episodes in the last 9 or 10 months. I deteriorate rapidly, going from absolutely fine to shivering and exhausted within around 4 hours. I am then bedridden for 36 hours, completely unable to do anything. I can’t eat and I shake uncontrollably. I recover in a day or two. The fever breaks, and my appetite returns. The exhaustion never really goes away. The last two episodes seemed to be triggered by physical exertion (a night without sleep at the hospital with my daugter and a full day of cleaning and gardening). I think I run at such a deficit of energy and my reserves are so spent that my body just goes into crisis mode to get the sleep it so desperately needs.
My weight is a few kilos over normal, so I’m not battling obesity. My blood test three months ago said everything was more or less okay (low vitamin D and low leucocytes). My skin and my jawline is increasingly sagging, my hair is greying, I have baby liver spots forming on the backs of my hands, a permanent rash on my legs, cracked heels and callouses on my feet.
But I am, as far as the medical profession believes, absolutely fine. With a bit of early onset arthritis.
But I am not absolutely fine. I am at the point where I am finding it hard to cope with my three children, and with the daily requirements of looking after them and the house (spare me the lecture on being an older mother – that is a whole other story for another day). The constant joint pain, shooting pains, exhaustion and slow-thinking I seem to suffer from are bringing me down.
I don’t believe that the body is meant to fall apart in middle age. So this is my quest to work out what I’m doing wrong and reverse it.