WOSTER: Arthritis turns street crown into base of Mt. EverestA little more than three years ago, just after I retired from a reporting job with the Sioux Falls newspaper, I got such stiffness and pain in most of the joints in my body that I thought I might end up unable to walk.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
A little more than three years ago, just after I retired from a reporting job with the Sioux Falls newspaper, I got such stiffness and pain in most of the joints in my body that I thought I might end up unable to walk.
The condition, which eventually was diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, developed more quickly than I’d have imagined possible. I’m no rheumatologist, not even a little bit of a medical expert. My layperson’s awareness — more properly described as unawareness, I suppose — was that arthritis developed slowly, over decades and mostly in old people. My big brother has dealt with arthritis for a long, long time, but he says his is osteo, and besides, he is older. I was still thinking of myself as a pretty young guy three years ago, retirement age or not.
What I’m telling you is, when I started experiencing stiffness in my knees and hips and back and shoulders, arthritis wasn’t the first thing I thought might be the cause.
“I must have gone up and down the stairs too many times at the Capitol yesterday,” I’d think as I gingerly navigated the steps from the bedroom to the kitchen in the morning.
“I must have been sitting in one position too long,” I’d think as I tried to make my back and my hips unbend at the end of a two-hour committee meeting.
“I must have pulled a muscle working in the basement Saturday,” I’d think when as I raised my arm above my head or turned my neck while backing the pickup out of the garage.
After I left the paper, I got a 10-week contract with The Associated Press during the 2009 legislative session. As the weeks of session rolled by, the stiffness and aches grew more pronounced.
I’m not complaining, because I’ve always been a fan of Patrick Swayze’s famous “Roadhouse” line: “Pain don’t hurt.” He says that as the beautiful female emergency-room doctor uses staples to close a knife wound in his side. That’s me all over. Just ask Nancy.
So, I’m not complaining. I’m just saying things were in a negative progression. By the last couple of weeks of session, I was up to about 16 or 18 anti-inflammation pills a day, and the inflammation seemed to be winning the battle. On the last day of that session, my final day as an AP legislative reporter, I shuffled home from the Capitol so slowly the turtles in the lake could have outrun me.
There’s a modest incline from the bridge at Capitol Lake up to my house on the other side of Washington Street. For most of my life, I’ve kept a decent pace up that gentle hill. That last session night, I was doing nothing but trying to put one foot in front of the other. When I reached the street corner, I thought I might be doomed. You know how streets are kind of crowned? Well, standing on the low side of the crown and looking across at my porch, you’d have thought I was at the base of Mount Everest. I made it, but I almost didn’t work up the will to try.
This isn’t just a complaint about my ailments, though. It’s more a sigh of gratitude that I live these days. It took a while with medical people before a number of other ailments were ruled out and we settled on rheumatoid. Once we did, I was relieved. I knew what I had.
It took a while longer with medical people before we hit on a course of medicine that seems to have put the inflammation at bay — not back where I was before this started, but not done in by the crown in a city street, either.
It has occurred to me more than once that, had I developed this condition a century ago, or even half a century ago, there might have been no effective treatments. At the rate I was going for a while there, I don’t know that I’d be using any of my limbs today.
As with many things in the world, it isn’t perfect, but it could be worse.