From a young age, I always loved participating in sports, especially downhill skiing and playing badminton. But what people don’t think about is there are often injuries in youth sports that result in life changing health conditions. For me this meant by the time that I was 22 years of age, I required ACL surgery on my knee.
At the time, my orthopedic surgeon told me that I would eventually develop osteoarthritis in my knee, but I never thought it was possible! The only person I knew that had arthritis was my grandmother.
But just 10 years later, when my husband Kevin and I were newlyweds, some of the early signs started showing up.
And after becoming pregnant with our son Jackson, my knee was in constant pain. Once Jackson was born, I thought it would go away. But after injuring myself again, my doctor ordered an x-ray and the results were undeniable.
I had osteoarthritis in my knee.
It was extremely serious. I was facing possible knee replacement surgery or the probability of being in a wheelchair by the time I was fifty.
When I was first diagnosed, I was told that I would need a knee replacement by the time I was in my forties.
After Shocks of Arthritis
It was hard to be told that I had what I considered to be an old person’s disease. I was only in my thirties and I had a young son to take care of. I grieved the athlete that I was and tried to come to grips with what it means to live with a chronic disease and the fear of how bad this might become over time.
When Jackson was young, the pain was unrelenting. The pain interrupted my sleep. There were so many times when I felt like I was in a fog and I was too tired to keep up. To not let the pain take over, I learned to be motivated by the good times and to focus on what I could do, instead of what I couldn’t do.
Some of my best memories involve Christmas. Our family has many holiday traditions and over time, we had to adapt them. So, while I couldn’t competitively ski anymore, I was able to very carefully teach Jackson and Kevin how to ski down gentle slopes. Occasionally, I would go skating with the family – even though I knew I would pay the price for the next few days or longer.
It was very hard for me to sit on the sidelines. I never wanted to miss out on these special moments.
This video is part of Arthritis Research Canada’s Arthritis Research Education Series.
Arthritis Research Changes Lives
When I was first diagnosed, I was told that I would need a knee replacement by the time I was in my forties. I was determined to protect my joints and hold off on surgery as long as possible.
Today, I’m happy to share that I had my first knee replacement surgery just four years ago at the age of 56. I’m still walking and exercising regularly. I have arthritis research to thank for this!
Because of caring donors, my quality of life (and so many others with arthritis) has greatly improved.
Years ago, I started learning more about osteoarthritis and living with a chronic disease. As I became more informed, I became more empowered to help not just myself, but to help others as well.
The Patient Voice
I’ve taken part in numerous research trials with Arthritis Research Canada, including Dr. Diane Lacaille’s groundbreaking study on employment and arthritis and Dr. Linda Li’s Fitbit study to encourage physical activity. As well, I have contributed as a patient partner to Dr. Jackie Whittaker’s study to help reduce the risk of knee osteoarthritis developing in youth who injure their knees during sports.
As you can imagine, Dr. Whittaker’s research particularly resonates with me, because if a study like this existed years ago, maybe I wouldn’t have osteoarthritis today. And maybe, through research like this, we can help prevent other young people from going through what I have.
Today, arthritis isn’t just something “you have to learn to live with”. Research is changing the future of arthritis. Research is giving people solutions to help them triumph over arthritis and more hope than ever before.