When I first was told about osteoarthritis, the thing that came into my mind was, “Wait a second: Arthritis is for old people, and the fingers can’t move, it’s like this, what is this osteoarthritis?”
And I really did not have a clear understanding of what it meant. All I was told was I had that, so I started doing some research, and fortunately I had been with Spine-health for a number of years. There was enough information to distinguish between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, there’s really research.
So when I found out that I did have osteoarthritis, I was, I guess, down and a bit depressed, only because of all the previous surgeries; I said, “Now what, now what’s going to happen?” Because I knew it was degenerating, and I knew it was rapid. So, I just said to myself, “OK, how many years am I going to go before I’m going to have all my joints replaced in the spine, and what are they going to do about it?”
So, from that point of view, the osteoarthritis, I think, affected me more emotionally than all the back problems I had. Because the back problems and surgeries? Once you had it, it was sort of corrected. You knew you had limitations and restrictions. With the osteoarthritis that’s not true. There really isn’t a limitation, because you know it’s going to continue. So that was kind of a downer, I mean, that was really a hard thing to accept.
Luckily, my family was really great about it. Having a support system is probably the most important thing. To go through any condition that is—I’m never going to say “terminal” because, luckily, spinal conditions, while some people think it’s the end, osteoarthritis they think it’s the end, it’s not terminal, it’s chronic. There’s a big distinction between chronic, terminal, and acute.
So I deal with chronic pain. And having people around to help you—family, a spouse, children—any support group is key. Because it’s almost impossible to deal with chronic pain by yourself. Because you can go through the day with other people and have a good time, but when nighttime comes, and you’re in bed and you’re sleeping or trying to get to sleep, that’s when your mind starts racing and all the dark thoughts start coming in, saying, “Oh my God, what’s going to happen? Why’d this happen to me?” And you start thinking that you got the raw end of the deal, and that really sort of gets you angry.
Besides depressed, you sort of get angry, and then you see other people that can walk around, play basketball, do these other things, and it’s a combination of anger because they can do it, and then, “Why can’t I do it?” and that gets the depression part in. But you have to be able to deal with that, and that’s what you need support for.