pain, pain, pain, Pain, Pain, Pain, PAIN!Published 5:33pm Saturday, October 19, 2013
Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster
I was wrapping my fingers in strips of Icy Hot patches when my mom said, “It’s not fair you should have to feel like that.”
Of course she said that. She’s my mom.
“Yep, it stinks,” I said, “but look.” I twirled my thickly bandaged fingers in front of her. “I look like a boxer. That’s pretty cool.”
Her face fell into sadness, like I was losing a concert pianist career I never had in the first place.
“Mom, you know everybody gets some bad and some really really bad. This is bad, and bad is not that bad.”
I have psoriatic arthritis. When people ask me what that is, I always say, “The thing Phil Mickelson has, you know, the golfer.” Like it’s Phil and me, hanging out at the rheumatologist drinking Arnold Palmers.
Psoriatic arthritis affects a small percentage of people with psoriasis. In my case the psoriasis is minimal. Arthritis is the star of the show. None of the medications worked for me. Some made me feel much worse. That didn’t seem like straight shooting logic, so I quit everything but anti-inflammatories and acupuncture. Acupuncture is remarkable, but that’s a column for another Sunday.
Each flare-up it presents itself in different areas, toes, fingers, knees, hips, whatever. Psoriatic arthritis is an egalitarian disease. Every joint has the right to feel equally as rotten as the next joint.
It strikes randomly. Once my left arm was so bad it hung limply at my side, useless, but my right arm was completely normal and got so strong I nicknamed it Mickey Mantle because I could have hit one-armed homers with it.
But here’s the thing, I’m thankful. I don’t enjoy pain. I’m not one of those people who shoots unicorns from her fingertips every time something bad happens to her because she considers it part of her grand journey. No way. Sometimes I grouse and whine, and I’m no fun to be around, but then I tell myself that I know what really, really bad looks like, so I’m just fine with my bad because it’s not impossible to make it a little better.
My body is capable when I focus on the parts that work and gently exercise those that don’t. If I can’t pick up my twin girls with my hands, I use my forearms. If I can’t lift them to my level, I go down to theirs. We crawl together until I reach a piece of furniture that will bear my weight and we rise to our feet as one small but determined team.
I carried them around under my arms like footballs on vacation last week. They didn’t know that it was because my hands felt like the Tin Man’s before Dorothy showed up with her oil can. All they knew was that Mommy literally gives them a sideways view of life, and they like it.
A couple of days ago, I was standing in the kitchen when I saw Clara start to climb a stepladder and lose her balance. I had one second to react. I knew my hands were hopeless, so I lunged and caught her head between my ankle and foot just before it smacked against the ceramic tile.
“Don’t move, honey,” I said to Clara, who looked up at me confused but unharmed, “Your dad has to see this!”
“Hey, Graham, look what I can do. I’m David Beckham with a baby head instead of a soccer ball.”
“That sounds really wrong,” he said.
But I was happy because I focused on what worked and protected my daughter. Sure it was unconventional, but was Clara concussed? No, she was not.
I’m thankful because having an autoimmune condition made me seriously consider things like exercise and diet for the first time. Illnesses that might affect me in the future perhaps won’t be as serious because getting sick forced me to get healthy.
So, yes, I choose to be grateful for this pain no matter how much I hate it because it’s only bad, and if really, really bad can’t break us, bad doesn’t stand a chance. So I wrap up everything that hurts for safekeeping, assure my mom that I’m OK, and I try to grab life with both hands. If I can’t, well, there’s always my feet.
Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.