Mort, 70, reveals the huge impact of being diagnosed with osteoarthritis and how a sense of community has opened his eyes to living a full, happier life with his arthritis.
For the past five years or so, I have learned to live with progressively more pain. I have osteoarthritis in both knees, although the left knee is considerably worse than the right one. My GP advised taking painkillers – anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, or paracetamol – and using ibuprofen gel. He also referred me to a physiotherapist.
The pain eventually led to me having to give up playing golf – a regular and enjoyable pastime shared with my wife. The pain also curtailed my other main leisure interest, sailing, because the arthritis was making it increasingly difficult to move around the boat quickly enough. Even playing with my grandchildren became difficult and painful. It all made me feel quite helpless and depressed.
I kept speaking to my GP about referring me to an orthopaedic consultant with regard to the possibility of having some kind of surgery, but he was initially unwilling to do that on the ground that the arthritis wasn’t ‘bad enough’ at the time to warrant surgical intervention.
In late 2019, the problem had developed to the point where I was finding it extremely painful to go up and down the stairs. Because of this, my wife and I decided to try to find a bungalow to move into. I did eventually see an orthopaedic consultant who told me that my knee was ‘buggered’ (his word not mine) and that I needed a total knee replacement. This should have happened in May 2020, though this has been stymied for the foreseeable because of the coronavirus.
I came across Arthritis Action on the internet and noticed they were soon to be holding a two-day seminar in Colchester, which my wife and I attended in February this year. Since then I’ve also been attending a number of Online Group meetings while we stay indoors more during the lockdown.
“It was uplifting to realise that although you might not be able to do everything that you used to do, there were other ways of doing things and that you could still lead a happy, fulfilling life despite the arthritis.”
The two day seminar was a real eye-opener. The lady hosting it revealed that she had both knees and both shoulders replaced because of arthritis, but was now back playing golf. That was a real inspiration for me. It was also really nice to be in a room with 15-20 other people, all of whom were facing the same problems I was and could share their stories with me. It felt wonderful to know that I wasn’t alone in my struggle.
One of the key offshoots of arthritis, in my view, is that you feel that your world is shutting down. The feeling that you’ve reached an age where your body is wearing out and that you will be unable to do many of the things that you might have wished to do in your retirement. It was uplifting to realise that although you might not be able to do everything that you used to do, there were other ways of doing things and that you could still lead a happy, fulfilling life despite the arthritis.
Since the initial seminar, I’ve also been attending a number of online group catch ups with other people living with arthritis in Colchester. This has allowed me to stay in touch with other people even while shielding from coronavirus. That feeling of community that I get out of the group meetings is, I’d say, the thing that has helped me the most.
Something else which has really improved my quality of life is learning simple exercises to help build up the muscles around my knees, as well as reading up on the importance of nutrition and keeping in shape. There’s a lot of information out there on websites like Arthritis Action’s, on what I can be doing to help improve my condition. Arthritis isn’t the end to my hobbies that I initially thought it was. I now feel more hopeful about my future, and far more supported.
I thoroughly enjoy being an Arthritis Action member and would not hesitate to recommend anyone else suffering from arthritis to join the organisation and to benefit from its expertise.