Monday, August 22, 2011

“A” for Arthritis -- Learning the Alphabet of Disease Progression

(Note: This "blog" is about events that took place in the fall of 2002. )

Shortly after the realization that my breast cancer had spread to the bones, I began feeling a different type of pain. This particular “pain” affected my knees and hands, especially my fingers... the knuckles looked out of shape. I was only in my early 50s, so I really had no idea what was happening. I made a doctor’s appointment.
Turns out, cancer (or rather the treatments for cancer) does cause a variety of side effects.  I was now dealing with osteoarthritis.   Go to:            I recall sitting in the doctor’s office asking questions. I asked, “Isn’t arthritis a progressive type of medical condition?” I had always thought that arthritis could start to flair up in one’s body at anytime (perhaps late 50s) and then, over the years, would gradually affect various joints, etc. But, I was a cancer patient.... so, of course, I “hit the jackpot!” My arthritic condition was almost instantaneous. How lucky for me! 
I woke up one morning and could barely make it down the steps from the second floor apartment. My knees locked up and I could hardly bend the joints. Plus, my fingers were all stiff and unbend able. Each morning, I would need to slowly release each finger and I would try to get them to move -- it was a slow, painful process. The stiffness meant my fingers felt like granite. They would not bend or move in any position until I could get them unlocked. This sometimes took minutes of massaging my fingers and hands or placing my hands and fingers under warm water until the stiffness went away. There were times I also dealt with “trigger finger-- another problem I developed. This later ailment terrified me, especially my first episode when I had no idea what was happening or why.  Go to:
Appointments with Dr. Chad Kollas, MD, my “pain doc” allowed me to discuss the various “aches and pains” I was now experiencing on a daily basis. Not only was I on heavy narcotics for my “other” pains, but now I was placed on medication specifically for arthritis. Sarcastically, I was overjoyed to have to add another “pill” to my growing collection. However, the medication (once taken consistently) did begin to work. 
Around this time, I visited the Disney Reservation Center to pick up copies of my cast newspaper and other items that were compiled for me by fellow team members. I would stop and say “hi” to my friends and let them know how I was progressing. This latest “challenge” took them all by surprise. I walked slowly through the building, hugging my coworkers and bringing them up-to-date on my treatment plan. I was given a wonderful surprise -- an envelope with tickets for "Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.”   Go to:   Having never attended the event before, I immediately knew I wanted to go. And, I stopped by the desk of a friend -- asked them to make me a resort reservation (using my cast discount) and called Adrienne with the great news. She and I would be attending the Halloween event and staying that night at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort. She was thrilled to get the call.
We arrived at the resort and checked in. That evening, following a bite at the resort’s food court, we were off by bus to the Magic Kingdom. We were all smiles as we boarded the bus with the tiny little “princesses,” “ghosts” and other costumed children. Even adults got into the spirit of the holiday and were dressed in costumes. It would be a fun night for all.
Adrienne helped me into a wheelchair once we reached the entrance of the park. We had our “goodie bags” all ready to collect candy (park workers handed out candy at designated locations) as we made our way to the Haunted Mansion, the most popular attraction that night. Afterwards, we found a great spot to watch the special fireworks and the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween parade. We laughed. We smiled. We had a wonderful evening. For a short time, I was relatively pain free. 
These rare moments of “fun” were extremely important to me. I wanted to spend plenty of “quality” time with my daughter (with all members of my family) and I knew that if I could find a diversion from my daily routine (even for a short time) I could enjoy some additional hours where I could forget my pain -- both physical and mental. As my physical pain or challenges increased, so did the emotional roller coaster I was riding. It was rapidly heading out of control! 

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