Saturday, March 16, 2013

Snap Crackle Pop

For the past year and a half I have been seeing my doctor to try and figure out what was causing my ankle pain. Admittedly I am not a very good patient and would put off doing xrays or whatever tests he would send me for so we probably would have found this out sooner if I had followed orders. The results are in...I'm 37 and have degenerative osteoarthritis in both my ankles.

It started with me thinking I had sprained my ankle running or had really bad running shoes that needed replacement. I stopped running for a few weeks but the pain never really seemed to go away. Sometimes I felt my ankle was out of place. I would limp around like I had a cast on but usually only rest made is marginally better.

I didn't really worry too much about it until a year later when it started to happen in my other ankle as well. Now that was weird!? What is the possibility of similar sprains in both ankles? So I carted myself off to the doctor again to admit I'd never gone for the 1st set of xrays he had asked me to do and left with the requisitions to finally get them done.

No surprise to me the xrays showed nothing. When it comes to my health I have always felt the same anxiety you feel when you're trying to show a mechanic how you're car is making a weird sound and it stops doing it the minute you get the car into the shop. My body does the same thing. My doctor would look at my joints and move them and I'd feel no pain. Then I'd get up to walk away from the examining table and BAM! my ankles hurt. It was difficult and frustrating to try to explain.

So my doctor decided it was time for an MRI and sent off the forms to put me on the waiting list. Then a few days later I got a call from my doctor's office telling me the MRI specialist said they felt I should go for a bone scan prior to being put on the MRI waiting list.

Have you seen a bone scan? It's kind of cool and kind of creepy at the same time. You go in the morning and they inject your blood with a radioactive material. They take an initial scan of your body and then you need to leave and drink 8 or so glasses of water. You come back a few hours later for them to take more scans and then compare the two. The cool part is that they let you watch to see what your xray/scan looks like. The creepy part is that they let you watch to see what your xray/scan looks like ;)

This is NOT my ankle. But it gives you an idea what you're looking at during the appointment. My ankles were both lit up like white Christmas tree lights.

I didn't hear back from my doctor for two weeks so once again I figured there was nothing to talk about and we'd just wait for the MRI. Then my doctor's nurse called me and started to rattle off what was wrong with me and what I needed to do to manage pain. I had to stop her and make her start over again. "Wait. You FOUND something?".  I wasn't sure what to do so I did what most other people do these days...I googled it so I would know what to ask about during the follow up appointment with my doctor.

Turns out degenerative osteoarthritis is uncommon in the ankles and it's uncommon in people my age. Yay. I looked up treatment options and it seems cortisone, physiotherapy, and drugs are really my only options. Because cortisone works less and less effectively each time you take it I've opted for physiotherapy and go for my initial assessment in 2 weeks.  Since the start of all this I've also developed pain/buckling in my left knee and pain in my left thumb joint. So in addition to more xrays and being waitlisted for the MRI my doctor has referred me for physio in my ankles, hands, neck and knees. I foresee lots of appointments and work in my future.

What does this mean for me? Well I've slowed down. I have told my Zumba instructor I will not be back until my physiotherapist clears me to take the class. I've stopped running. I've stopped using our indoor bike. I'm reconsidering all my volunteer activities as I need to make more time for all these appointments. And Hubs and I are rethinking some parts of our lives. We were talking about a trip for our 10 year anniversary this summer and couldn't decide where to go. Now that we know what is causing my pain, and it's not going to go away, we have decided to bump up certain trips that require a lot of walking or standing. Best to do them now at 37 than try with my unknown pain levels/mobility restrictions at 47.

One of the hardest things for me to give up was the Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life. For the past 3 years I've walked throughout the night logging somewhere between 22-30 kilometres. Well, that's just not going to happen anymore. The cold of the night plus walking that distance while sleep deprived is just not a reality anymore. So I've decided to do this walk instead: Walk To Fight Arthritis  It's only 1km or 5km and it's in support of a disease that directly affects me now. I've started a team called Snap Crackle Pop if you'd like to join me on my walk.

My closest family and friends have been generous with support, encouragement and hugs. It's helped a great deal. Because my osteoarthritis is in my weight bearing joints it's hard to forget for even a moment that this is going to be a lot of work for the rest of my life. What makes it better is knowing my family and friends are understanding and supportive. My sister-in-law suggested it gives me an excuse to put my feet up more and enjoy a glass of wine; I like the way she thinks ;)

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