by Maureen Colfor
Some time ago, I experienced quite severe pain in my left foot. I put up with it for some time but when I experienced pain in my knees, I eventually decided to look for help. Following visits to G.P., orthopaedic consultant, x-rays, scans, several courses of anti-inflammatory medication it was decided that I had osteoarthritis and really at my age (I was in my opinion a young fifty something !!) it is to be expected and I would just have to accept it.
I had always led a very busy, active life and found it very difficult to adjust to a life of constant pain and much reduced activity. It wasn’t a life- threatening condition and there did not seem to be much help available. Armed with a walking stick and painkiller, I could get around slowly.
So when I saw a small advertisement for a course entitled “ Living Well with Arthritis “ I decided to apply.
It was with a fair degree of scepticism that I attended the first session. There I met fourteen people, all with some form of arthritis, and the two lovely ladies who would direct the course. It is no exaggeration to say that attending that course was the best thing I had done since first experiencing pain in my foot a long time previously – at this time I was having pain in both feet and in my knees and hands also.
For two hours every Monday morning for six weeks we attended the workshops. It was a very hands-on experience as we got involved in learning how to manage arthritis. The title “Living Well with Arthritis” exactly describes the course.
The two ladies who directed the course were extremely positive and encouraging while certainly not dismissing the difficulties experienced by those with arthritis. The fact that one of them had been living well with arthritis for many years was an inspiration to us all while the other lady was an expert on many aspects of arthritis.
The basis of the course was to help the participant
(a) to manage his/her arthritis
(b) to reduce pain
(c) to deal with problems caused by arthritis
(d) to realise the importance of exercise.
A very practical approach was taken in the work shops on such topics as types of arthritis, self management plans, useful gadgets, importance of exercise including details of suitable exercises, how to cope with related problems e.g. depression, fatigue, sleeplessness etc etc.
One of the main lessons learned was goal setting. Every week each person was asked to set a reasonable a goal e.g. “I will walk for twenty minutes on four days next week” or “I will cut out chocolate and desserts as a first step to losing weight.”
The emphasis was on setting achievable goals. The following week we all reported honestly on how we got on with goals!! The trick was to start again after a “bad” week. Some of us discovered that keeping a diary was a good idea where we entered each day how we got on with our goals. That diary acts as my conscience three years later.!! I fill it in every day, noting how long I spend on flexibility exercises or going for walk not to mention the days I managed stay away from chocolate!! Of course there are a few blanks.
We learned a lot on that course. We were given much practical help.
In fact we found it so helpful that we decided to continue the good work. So three years later, twelve of us meet once a month and follow the format we learned at the course. We have become very good friends and all agree that the meetings have developed into a much-appreciated support group.
Since attending that course in 2006, I have abandoned the walking stick, walk regularly, get out to socialise and I have become a member of Arthritis Ireland – have even become involved in helping out with one of Arthritis Ireland’s many wonderful ventures,the Arthritis Ireland Helpline and made some great friends, all of whom understand the difficulties experienced by those of us with arthritis.
I know it is a cliché to talk about life-changing experiences but I can honestly say, in my case, attending ' Living Well with Arthritis' was a real life change for me.
P.S. For € 20.00 it has got to be the best value for money available !!!