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Arthritis and Diabetes are the chronic illnesses that debilitate me both mentally as well as physically. The undying love of my family and friends is what has allowed me to live MY best life.

Like any active independent person who believed they would always have the ability to take care of themselves, my inability to do so was frighting even paralyzing. I could not get out of bed. I expected my joints to perform normally. As a result, I went through a sever state of depression. No longer the self sufficient individual I had worked so hard to be, the unbearable pain, and the feeling of loss of self lead me to believe that I was not going to make it.

Conquering the deception of depression proved to be an admirable idea. But in fact, it took longer to accomplish than anyone could ever have convinced me it would. In the beginning, I did not realize that the depression was contributing to my chronic fatigue. The chronic fatigue that had already been manifested by my arthritis, diabetes and the medication that I was taking to control them.

Physical therapy, for my third knee replacement, aggravated the arthritic damage to my back and psychological therapy for my depression depleted the funds in my savings account. For the first time in my adult life, I could not figure out how to work through my own problems.

The Arthritis Foundation states that there are over 100 different types of Arthritis. Here I will discuss Rheumatoid Arthritis which effects 1.3 million Americans. And, Osteoarthritis which effect a staggering 27 million Americans. The word arthritis is derived from the Greek word arthron (joint) and suffix -itis (inflammation). For people like me, who suffer with arthritis, the word signifies pain, swelling, redness, and heat that is caused by tissue injury or disease in the joint. As we age, bones become brittle, ligaments lose their elasticity, and tendons degenerate in areas with poor blood flow. Knowing this did not keep me from mourning the loss of my younger healthier body. I was now learning to cope with the chronic pain of arthritis.

While Arthritis is not thought to be caused by the weather, those of us who suffer with it are aware that once you get Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid arthritis any extreme change in the weather can certainly increase our pain and stiffness, while reducing our energy levels significantly.

Osteoarthritis, derived from the Greek words osteo-of the bone, arthro meaning joint and itis-meaning inflammation, is the most common type of arthritis. It is called a degenerative joint disease because it results from the deterioration of the bones and cartilage that make up the joints.
Osteoarthritis is destroying my lower back. I take anti inflammatory medication to reduce the swelling and help with the pain.

The Facet Block injections into my back worked for a few months and so did the Thoracic/Lumbar/Caudal Epidural Steroid injections. However with in, what seemed to me to be such a short while, for the money, I was in pain again and unable to stand without assistance.

The second most common type of arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, is an inflammatory disease that attacks the lining of multiple joints. I have been diagnosed with it in all of my joints. Although it affects only one-tenth as many people as Osteoarthritis, it can be far more debilitating.

After having both knees replaced (my right one twice), I still have swelling, pain and heat in my knees. I have had a total of six knee surgeries and still require an additional pain medication for relief.

I eat calcium rich foods such as soy milk, green leafy vegetables, canned salmon and sardines and fresh fruit. However, because salt may contribute to calcium depletion and bone loss, I almost never add salt to any food. From the first time I went to a doctor, I was diagnosed as being anemic. Even with iron supplements, my body did not process my nutrition efficiently.

The combination of pain medications make it no longer safe for me to drive. I loved the freedom that driving allowed me. But, I must be responsible. So, depending on family and close friends for my transportation is imperative. The thought of getting into a vehicle and harming an innocent individual gave me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone and ask for help. Asking for assistance has been the hardest place for me to get to.

For years I kept my illness from everyone but my son and one coworker. I could not admit to myself how ill I am. How was I suppose to admit it to my family? For some reason, It felt like failure.

Remarkable to me, has been the loving way my needs have been responded to. Due to my disabilities and medications, I no longer work. My Social Security benefits are about half of what my working salary was. Working gave me a sense of achievement and belonging. I was included in something. Abruptly not having that, left me lonely and with a feeling of helplessness.

Once my family and friends were aware of what was happening to me, they refused to let me stay in that dark and lonely place. One friend worked her nine (9) hour shift and would bring my dinner and sit with me for five to six hours each week day. For months! Another friend, who takes care of her elderly mother and father, comes and takes me with them when she takes them on outings. She pays for everything. One sister, without fail, talks to me every night and pays, monthly, for one of my medications. She has also made several mortgage payments. Another sister mails me boxes of food and personal items that I would other wise have to do without. She, also, has come to my rescue with mortgage payments. Any time I have asked my brother for anything, he and his wife made sure I had it. My father paid my phone bill for years. And, my son, what has he not done? He moved back in with me and has become my unpaid care taker. He does the grocery shopping. He cooks the food and when I am unable to go to the dinning room table, he serves me in bed. He does my gardening, washes my clothes and keeps the house clean. On days when I am up to it, to alleviate my cabin fever, he drives me around the city. I love our little rides. My family and friends took on different aspect of my financial and emotional situation. Food, medication, phone and some mortgage payments have been paid. They even supply me with books of inspiration and music. My life seems magical. I am no longer afraid to live it.

According to the American Diabetes Association,Type I Diabetes results from the body's inability to produce insulin. The more common Type 2 Diabetes results from insulin resistance, the body's inability to properly use insulin. In addition to watching what I eat and the portion size of my meals, to regulate my glucose levels, I take medication twice a day. It seems to keep my diabetes under control. But, if I consume sugary products, breads, potatoes or beans, I suffer a rise in my sugar levels. These foods I have learned to reduce my portion intake or avoid altogether.

  • Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes are typically dramatic and occurring abruptly. They include constant urination, loss of weight, an increase in hunger, dehydration, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.
  • Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes are sometimes confused with age or weight related issues. They include sudden weight loss, fatigue, increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, blurred vision, slow healing wounds and unexplained irritability.

The highs and lows of diabetes are just that. Waiting too long between meals can cause my blood glucose level to drop. Low glucose levels make me think I am functioning normally. When in fact I maybe wondering around aimless. Or in bed because I am too weak to get up at all. 

High glucose levels also cause me to become confused. But, with an added punch. Combined with the chronic fatigue, I become unreasonable and easily irritated.

The slow healing wounds in diabetics is what recently sent me to the emergency room. During a trip to the emergency room for poison ivy, I contracted a staph infection. I am sure my weakened immune system played a part in my contracting the staph infection.

Whenever I go to a doctor for a new illness, my fear is that I will be treated as a case history and not a human being. So, having my medical history with me at all times is imperative. How can a doctor treat me without the knowledge of 

  1. my medical conditions and the
  2. medications I am taking to control    their effects? 
  3.  A list of allergies 
  4. the names of other doctors treating me, their phone numbers and 
  5. their business addresses are also included within my list.
This information can mean the difference between life and death.

It took about two month to clear up the staph infection. I thought it was all over. Then a month later, it was back to haunt me. My doctors prescribed two antibiotics. They worked the first time. The second time only one anti biotic was prescribed. I pray that the infection dose not come back. It distorts the skin by swelling up like a boil. However, this infection is much deeper in the tissue, very painful and can be life threatening. Just to escape the pain, I welcomed sleep. But it did not come easy.

I am now in a position to again take care of my financial situation. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Physically, I will handle what ever this body throws at me. I have experienced the depth of love that my words cannot convey appreciation for. Most of the time, the need was recognized and acted upon, long before I found the courage to ask for help.