Lessons From a 28 year old with a Cane (By: Leigh LePage)

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Let me begin first by prefacing that I recognize my pain is minimal compared to what many have to go through on a daily basis, and by no means understand those who suffer severely from arthritis long-term or other chronic pain. These are just my experiences, my thoughts, and recent life discoveries.

A couple weeks ago while battling a wicked cold I began to experience swelling in my knees, back, ribs, feet, and parts I didn’t even know could (or should) swell. In true type-A fashion, however, I continued working until I turned into a waterfall of perspiration that caused great concern (and most likely incredible disgust) from my colleagues.

A visit to a walk-in followed by multiple trips to the hospital, peeing in a cup, passing out during blood work, and getting x-rays while in a fancy robe, resulted in a diagnosis of ‘reactive arthritis’.

Yes. When I avoided a cold for weeks, didn’t sleep, and continued to work, I pushed my cold virus through my bloodstream into my muscles causing them to inflame – and along came the reactive arthritis with a 3-12 month (or possibly permanent) recovery time.

Three weeks later I’m doing much better, but I still have a journey to go! I am on arthritis medication (the pain can be pretty bad), I have a bad-ass cane to walk (pain mostly in my knees), I have to take mini breaks from typing (“my wrists are on fire”), and my energy is low. Over the next two weeks I will meet with a rheumatoid arthritis  doctor, a naturopath, a nutririonalist and physiotherapist.

Yes, this sucks. But a week-long trip to Costa Rica allowed me to put my thoughts together. If this is what life has handed me, let me take these lemons and share the juicy lessons it has taught me:

THANK YOUR BODY

As stolen from the ‘The Sunscreen Song,’ ‘Your body is the greatest instrument you will ever own.’ Perhaps cliché to say, but we are constantly putting down our bodies or trying to perfect them, and never do we stop to simply say ‘thank you’. I realize now how ungrateful I had been for my body’s ability to stand-up, walk, and move without question or difficulty. I beg of you to go outside for a run, talk a walk or dance, because you can. And appreciate it.

STEP BACK

While what happened to me is somewhat of a fluke AND also possibly caused by an autoimmune disorder (results to come), it is also most likely because I chose to avoid listening to my body and kept on keeping on. Perhaps it’s because we are all always connected and have been ‘trained’ to commit or quit; us ‘millennials’ – we work and play through it all – often to the detriment of our health. It’s time for all of us to let this go. Your job and social life will non-existent when you’re a 28 year old arthritic with a cane – you can miss it for a day or two.

SUCK IT UP

When pain in your legs becomes your norm, there is no time for complaining. You can’t change anything about it, so you carry on – a sentiment we can all use in our everyday. This lesson was first taught to me by a doctor who claimed, “This will get worse, but then get better. You have to deal with it; this is your new reality. Just get through it.”  Preach.

As said by the legendary Joni Mitchell – you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Embrace and nurture your good health. But while I’d love to continue to discuss life’s silver linings, it’s 8:30PM and I must head to bed. Please, will you pass me my cane?

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