It was a beautiful fall day in October as I started my day like any other. I woke up, got my children off to school and my husband ready for the office. Then I spent a few minutes getting myself ready to head out to work. Little did I realize that on this particular day in 1982, my life would change forever.

A friend’s mother, who recently had a stroke, asked me if I could take care of her while he and his wife were at work. She had become quite disabled with the crippling effects of the stroke and needed a walker to get around. Concerned with leaving her alone during the day, they asked me if I had the time to look in on her. Since I was in between jobs and had experience caring for disabled and critically ill people, I decided to help them out. Each day, after my family left for their jobs and school, I would walk over a mile to my friend’s house where his mother was staying. At the end of a four- to eight-hour shift caring for her, I would start my journey back home where I would then once again care for my own family.

This is when it happened! As I was walking to my friend’s house that morning, something strange and disturbing happened to me. All of the sudden, without warning, I started to experience excruciating pain throughout my whole body; my hands, feet, neck, arms and knees, felt as though they had been consumed in cut glass. Every task I took on, such as buttoning my blouse, turning on a light switch or sitting down into a chair became an overwhelming ordeal with pain.

I struggled to make my way home that afternoon, where fortunately, my husband had come home early from the office. As he helped me into the house I could see in his face overwhelming concern and fear, as he watched me struggling to just to move.

Immediately we called our family doctor and explained the situation. The doctor was able to fit me into his schedule that day and I went in for a complete examination. Upon doing extensive tests, sending them out to the lab and examining me from head to toe, he proceeded to give me his prognosis. He told me that since the pain came on so spontaneously and affected all the joints at once, he believed I might be experiencing an acute attack of arthritis. He went on to say that once the test results returned he would know more, but in the meantime he prescribed some medication for the pain and told me to go home and rest.

As we drove home from the doctor’s office, we felt devastated and scared, not sure of what to expect next. I needed to rest, which meant I was unable to care for my family, work and follow through with my obligation to care for my friend’s ill mother. This left me with deep feelings of despair, guilt and disappointment. As time went on, I became confused by this illness. Arthritis symptoms can play cruel tricks on you. One minute you feel great, thinking the worst has past, then the next, you are hit so hard with a wave of pain that it brings you to your knees in tears. It was frustrating sorting out what I could and couldn’t do. One day I was this active vibrant woman and the next I had retreated into an immobile mass of pain.

What’s that old saying, “You never appreciate what you have till it’s gone.” I finally have come to realize and appreciate what that really means. For example, I began to notice how much I took my life for granted. The simple joy of being able to dress yourself, hold a fork in your hand to eat or walk without pain is something most of us have forgotten. It wasn’t until I was unable to do these things for myself anymore that I realized the blessing we take for granted and the lack of gratitude on my part.

I was such an active person, you might say, even hyperactive. I made sure my days were full from early morning to late at night, never considering all of the energy I was burning up. What me? Stop long enough to take care of myself that was unheard of. I was the caretaker, the one who took care of everyone else. As the pain continued to increase, I quickly discovered I was coming to the point where I had to make some critical decisions. I was being forced to finally slow down, and take a good look at my life and how I took care of myself. My choice was becoming very clear because my body was literally shutting down.

This was one of the most frustrating and depressing periods in my life. I found doing any activity for long periods of time created such discomfort that I deliberately would avoid activity. My life became more isolated, as I withdrew into the cocoon of pain I had built around me. It became a challenge to find new and creative ways of accomplishing simple tasks. My husband installed railings throughout the house making it easier for me to navigate without falling. My beautiful house was now being transformed into a living area that would now accommodate this disabled woman.

Analgesics can be successful, effective in treating many kinds of pain, such as back pain, pain after surgery, pain from arthritis and earaches. Pain killers are medicines that you may purchase without a prescription

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