It was early November 1989, and my knees were absolutely killing me. It had been about 3 weeks since they really started hurting after that Mass I went to with my friends, and they hadn't stopped hurting. Really? Could a simple few minutes of kneeling on a makeshift kneeler (basically, a 2x6 covered with a basic loop carpet) cause this much pain?
I would soon have my answer, thanks to the outpatient clinic of the Medical University of South Carolina and the Orthopedics Department. I was just about 2 weeks past my 20th birthday when Dr. Morwessel gave me the diagnosis: osteoarthritis. She gave me a laundry list of everything that would happen to me at various ages and stages -- by the time I was 40, 50, 60, etc. -- if I didn't take care of myself properly. And by properly, she meant get the weight off ASAP.
It took 16 years for her message to really take root -- because honestly (a) I wasn't ready to hear it but (b) I wasn't hurting nearly as bad as I had been at first. Sure the knees popped and swelled occasionally .... as did the fingers. As did the ankles. But really, nothing bad.
And I lost the weight. And I forgot mostly about the diagnosis except on cold and damp mornings, or when my fingers would ache and swell and turn red from the inflammation. But hey pop a few NSAIDs and we'll be fine, right? Same as forever.
Almost three years ago, I had a really painful experience at the gym. I was in the middle of a beautiful set of calf raises when I felt searing pain in my left foot -- diagonally, across the metatarsals. I thought it was perhaps a stress fracture and went to get it checked out at a sports medicine clinic. Nothing showed up on the x-ray (as we suspected it wouldn't), and I got a bootie/sandal type thing to help give my foot some stability; I still use the bootie thing on days when my foot needs that little extra boost. It was good for a while but about a year later, I was still in pain, especially as the colder weather came in. I was really freaking out, because I'd signed up for 4 different 5K's over a 7-week period (including one non-refundable in New Orleans that was really just a great excuse for a girls' weekend). I haven't done a 5K now in over 18 months, and I purely adore doing them. The pain in the left foot has become pretty much constant now.
Within the last 8-9 weeks, I've noticed a new pain -- right foot, in the heel. I thought it was everything from a bone spur in the heel (oh no!) to maybe needing orthotics. Heel supports? Didn't help. Okay, so ball of foot supports? Meh.......
In mid-August, I took a step off the same concrete steps that I have used for the last 35 years when taking Maddox out for a potty break. My ankle was instantly hobbled. I didn't twist it or turn it, but I suddenly had lots of problems putting any pressure or weight on it. I ended up at Urgent Care the next day where they took x-rays of the ankle to ensure there wasn't a break or any major chipping. But the doctor did say something to me that he thought would knock me for a loop:
"Um, wow, did you know you have some major arthritis in that ankle?"
He wasn't prepared for my shrug. He wasn't prepared for me to say, "That's just me outrunning the last 25 years." He just said, "Oh......" and I replied, "I've had a diagnosis since I was 20. This isn't a huge surprise."
It took seven weeks for me to get into the orthopedic clinic here. Yes, seven weeks. Funny how 25 years ago, I got an appointment within a much shorter framework (about 2 weeks, if I remember correctly). But once I got to actually see the orthopedist, well worth it. There were more x-rays needed, primarily of my feet, and after reviewing them, Dr. Anderson gave his verdict: fallen arches (among the issues) and tendonitis. PT for the next 4-6 weeks. New arch supports for my shoes.
The days of really cute cheap shoes? Over. This pain is not worth however cute the shoes may be. Revoke my "Southern Girl Card" because when the throbbing and stabbing pain kicks in, I couldn't give forty damns about how cute the shoes are......
In just about 48 hours, I can tell you that the arch supports are helping a bit. Now to figure out how to wear them 24/7.....
I start PT for the feet/ankles next week. I'm actually looking forward to this, so that I can move past the pain and into better health!
I can't outrun the fact that I have osteoarthritis, but I can do everything possible to manage it.