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Rebecca Barnard

2016-06-24 09:43

Rosalie's Story

I'm a seventy year-old woman living in West Sussex and worked at a desk job until I was made redundant on early pension terms in 1997. Since then I've had various voluntary jobs and pain didn't seriously affect my life until I started medication to prevent recurrence of cancer: joint and muscle pain is a common side effect of the medication, but I prefer the pain to recurrence of the cancer!

If I'm immobile - such as sitting in the armchair or asleep in bed - for more than 30 minutes or so it's hard to get out of the chair and move around, though the rigidity wears off after a few minutes. I take painkillers at night to help me sleep.

In addition to the side-effects of the medication I also get pain in my left toe – it first started to hurt in my teens. I was told variously "it's because your shoes are too tight" ... "your socks/stockings are too small"; both strange reasons as I have size 2 feet! I had actually developed hallux rigidus (an arthritic condition where big toes don't bend and are painful). This has a genetic component as my sister had a partial toe replacement and my father suffered from this particularly during the Second World War when, as a squaddie, he had to march interminably! This has lasted for about 30 years, but I noticed relief on my first visit to South Africa in 1992. A great hint to take more holidays there!

Otherwise, I just got on with it until 1999 when a podiatrist told me to wear insoles: the pain disappeared immediately. The relief didn't last for more than a couple of years, though, so I started to buy a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin - immensely helpful and I'm on the maximum dose. An X-ray to exclude gout showed arthritic changes and my doctor prescribed a combination of paracetamol and codeine which I've been taking for about eight years, now supplemented by Ibuprofen.

How do I deal with my pain? Well, during the day I ignore it, as I'm so used to it. I can (and do) walk for about 40 minutes each day with a longer walk of four miles about once a week. The pain in different parts of my body wakes me at night, every night, and it's then that I take pain relief. I manipulate both big toes before I get dressed. This only takes 60 seconds and makes a big difference, and gentle stretching of the whole body helps too. Encouragement from my husband, my family and friends has been of huge, huge benefit and their support continues.

Now I have recovered from the debilitating treatment for cancer I've resumed some of my voluntary jobs, my main one being as a Room Steward at a local National Trust property, though I don't work a full shift. I also used to do countryside conservation work with a voluntary group. Cancer stopped that in its tracks but I've restarted. Whereas my colleagues work for three hours I just manage a half hour. I help read newspapers for the blind, too.

My subjective feeling is that heat makes the pain less severe - for instance, the first time I went to a really hot country my general aches and pains dissipated for the duration, only to return when I got home. I signed up to Cloudy when my husband - an Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) sufferer - was invited to do so by the National Association for AS. I'd be fascinated to find out if my theory about heat is correct.