“I found the online community a month after diagnosis and am so glad I did.”

07 October 2020
Anna in her surveyor work clothes, walking with a stick and out in the countryside.
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I’m Anna, I’m 61, I work as a self-employed surveyor and I have osteoarthritis (OA).

It runs in our family. My sister had to have both knees replaced before she was 60 and now has polymyalgia rheumatica, and my grandmother had severe rheumatoid arthritis.

“I’ve always been active.”

My work often has me on my feet all day inspecting large buildings, crawling around in attics, or scrambling up scaffolds.

I also love gardening, fell walking, and occasional kayaking and horse riding. My holidays were mainly trekking adventures, e.g. Everest Base Camp, or volcano chasing in places like Italy and Iceland.

Early this year, I managed a couple of wonderful walks in the hills, then in February after a light tumble, the pain and reduced mobility in my hip got much worse.

“I was stunned. I had no idea this was coming.”

The pain increased going from slight discomfort to "Oh my goodness, give me more pills!" and "we’re booking you in for a steroid injection and a new hip madam" from the consultant. The X-rays showed advanced OA in both hips, it was worse in the left hip.

As well as sharp pains in the hip itself, I get shooting pains down my thigh, my knee and shin feel like I’ve been hit with a stick and get a sharp burning pain in my lower shin.

Sometimes they start up when I'm sitting completely still. It's like I've got mad gremlins having a party in my leg. I swear at them - sometimes it helps.

“I found the online community a month after diagnosis and am so glad I did.”

There’s so much useful information and support and reading the experiences of others on the Versus Arthritis community has been so helpful.

I hadn’t appreciated that arthritis itself can be so exhausting (I thought I was just unfit), so I have to come to terms with this as well.

The Versus Arthritis website has also helped me understand the various treatments available, so I’ve been able to talk this through with my doctor more easily.

I have also learnt that everyone’s experience of arthritis is different; some conditions are much more complex and limiting than my own.

“Resting during lockdown helped my hip settle down.”

I’ve found ways to continue working by taking on smaller jobs, and I can still scramble up a ladder or scaffold using my good leg.

Working from home avoids the long walk between the car and my office, and I plan rest days before and after a full day. I also have an inflatable wedge cushion on my computer chair. This reduces pressure on my hip when working long hours and has made a huge difference.

I’m lucky that I live in a beautiful area, with nature and wildlife on my doorstep, which together with my garden, my cats and my family keep me sane.

My current mantra is “When you can’t marvel in the mountains, revel in the valleys, paddle in the streams or potter in the garden.”

“I’ve learnt what movements set off the worst pain.”

Getting into bed or simply getting dressed, can be a painful obstacle course.

I've invested in a long-handled shoehorn, which helps with putting shoes on, and use a piece of ribbon threaded through the zip tab to pull up the zip on boots.

I have a knee pillow in bed, it seems to help if I use it to cradle my left foot and I have a pillow under my left hip. On bad days these really help.

I lead with my good leg going upstairs and use a stick when I’m out, walking at a snail’s pace. The resulting fatigue is worse than ever. Even a walk to the village shop leaves me exhausted. My “Base Camp” days are over, for now at least.

“Pain is an alarm to tell our body to do something different to avoid harm.”

I've found meditation techniques very helpful in managing pain, as well as stress and anxiety. I would recommend it to anyone, you don't have to have a spiritual belief.

It's a very calming and practical way to help your mind and body deal with life circumstances, including the consequences of arthritis.

Teach Yourself to Meditate by Eric Harrison is an excellent and easy step by step guide from a 10 second breather to a full-on session.

The key is to recognise that the pain isn't a warning of imminent harm, it's just a consequence of the condition of our body. If you can, recognise and acknowledge the pain, breathe calmly, distance yourself from it mentally, and wait for it to flow away.

I realise this won't work for everyone, particularly if you are in constant pain, but it works well for me with the sudden jabs and pulses of pain I sometimes experience. Any new or persistent undiagnosed pains should of course be referred to a GP.

“I find gardening, telly and tapestry can make a huge difference to how I experience pain.”

I get a good workout gardening and at work, even if there is a lot of grunting, wincing and strange contortions getting down to ground level!

My husband and family have been very supportive, despite how it restricts what we can do together.

Friends have been kind, but they don’t yet realise how little I can do now. I still feel a little embarrassed at work or in town walking with a stick, and I worry that this will affect how the clients and builders view me, but it’s a necessity now - where I go, the stick goes.

It takes strength to live with arthritis

We all need a little strength sometimes. The strength to speak about your experiences and the strength to ask for support, like Anna.

Our online community is a safe space where you can share anything from your concerns, questions and support for each other. If you only want to look and read what others have posted, that’s fine too. The community is here for you to use how you want to.

If you agree it takes strength to live with arthritis - add your name now.

“In the early days and months of diagnosis, this place was my saviour and kept me going. Even when I don’t post, I think of here as my “home”. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

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