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January 30th, 2008

Pain? What Pain?

As many of you know, I suffer from severe arthritis and arthrofibrosis after two major leg surgeries that - lucky me - left me worse off than I was before. This, understandably, causes me a great deal of pain in the day-to-day business of living.

I am still able to work and drive, and I thank my lucky stars for that - I can walk, though with a limp (sexy, eh?) and sometimes a cane. I have "rock-star parking" (or a handicap tag, if you want to be a jerk about it) for life, so there are a few quirks. Though I am blessed in being able to still get around, for the most part, and do some things it is not without considerable pain. Especially at this time of year, with the temperature yo-yoing between humidly warm and bitingly cold, and the frequent rain that comes through dropping the temperature. Not this gimp's best time of year, as you may well imagine.

Not only is my condition chronic (as in permanent), but it is also progressive. It gets worse, it will get worse - yada, yada. I'm not bitter - far from it. In all honesty, this condition has given me an amazing outlook on life - I've learned not to take anything for granted - and gifted me with a special kind of empathy for those that are suffering, mentally or physically.

I, also, wouldn't be who I am today if not for these struggles I've gone through, and I happen to like me...so it can't be all bad, right? Sure, I might someday be completely crippled and wheelchair-bound, but so what? It could always be worse. I spent the first three years of this disability, after the initial surgery in 2001, depressed as all hell and feeling like a prisoner inside of my own body. I'm done with that. The grieving period for the loss of my mobility is over; now I'm living life to its fullest, doing what I can while I still can and taking every moment as the blessing that it is.

That all said, there is still the matter of pain, of which I'm not a fan. The pain has gotten worse, so that - to enjoy and still be able to do the things I once did - I need some help. Help comes in the form of little blue pills, known to the world as Hydrocodone, or in layman's terms, Lortabs. I don't like having to rely on pills to help me get through my day, or to be able to accomplish something as simple as shopping or a full work-day, but there it is. It's just getting to that point.

On Monday I saw, for the first time, the doctor that will become my pain management specialist. Because the pain is chronic, he suggested we try something longer lasting, because popping Lortabs all day long isn't exactly healthy for the old liver (that Acetaminophen is a bitch like that). He prescribed Contin MS for me - which is, I'm not so thrilled to report, a synthetic morphine. It's time-released and will last for 12 hours - so that instead of taking 4 (and sometimes up to 6) Lortabs a day, I can take the Contin MS and maybe only 2 Lortabs (or none if the weather is right and I haven't been overdoing it).

That's the thing. I'm not in agony every day. It all depends on the weather, what I've been doing on the legs to date (if I've been working hard and on them a lot, obviously the pain is worse) They always hurt and ache, don't get me wrong - but sometimes (more often in the warmer months), it can be bearable. Other times, it's bad enough that I can barely limp to the bathroom without pausing and grasping onto furniture for support. Sometimes I can live with it, sometimes I can't. And the times I can't are what the meds are for.

What scares me - I'll admit - is that the times I can't are getting more frequent. I used to be able to go much longer and do more on my legs without this kind of debilitating pain; now, not so much. I know my condition is progressive...that it will deteriorate and grow worse with time. Still, I was hoping to have a little longer. I'm only 30, and the initial surgery was in July 2001; I had just hoped it would hold out a little longer. I knew someday I was facing "pain management" and a life on pills - yet I had hoped it would not come so soon.

Still, I refuse to let it slow me down or get me down. There's no use in that, and self-pity does no one any good. I have to make the best of it, and work hard to control all of this. I've started doing Peggy Cappy's Yoga for the Rest of Us DVD and am reading her book, Yoga for All of Us: A Modified Series of Traditional Poses for Any Age and Ability. I have always wanted to try yoga, but getting into the traditional poses is difficult for someone with a "frozen" leg like mine; Peggy Cappy has re-worked traditional yoga for the elderly, out of shape, and disabled and it's really wonderful. Using it once a week, I have noticed a difference. If I can get my lazy ass to do it every day, I think it would be very beneficial for me.

This summer, I also plan to get back to swimming, which is a wonderful exercise for someone with disabilities. The resistance of the water is perfect for keeping everything in shape and even helping with the arthritis.

So I'm fighting this and working with it all at once. If I let myself dwell on the fact that I need pain pills and a low dose of morphine to get through my day, I just start to get depressed - and that isn't helping me, now is it? So I am focusing on needing less of those things...doing things that will aid me so that I don't have to take pain medication every day, or - at least - all day.

And that's the best I can do - any of us can - just to take it step by step, day by day. Thanks for listening.

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