Young people turn to drug-free arthritis management
BY HANNAH CLARK, CONTRIBUTOR
At first, Melanie Galon thought the weather was making her joints ache.
“I would just wake up on a random day, and I wouldn’t be able to walk normally or close my hands,” she said.
Galon lived with daily pain for several months before she went to her family doctor, who referred her to a rheumatologist. She was diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis at the age of 24.
In Manitoba, more than 250,000 people live with arthritis, according to The Arthritis Society. There are over 100 kinds of arthritis. Each condition has its own symptoms, but all involve joint pain. For some people, the persistent joint pain means making difficult decisions, like walking away from their careers.
Derek Worthington worked as a mechanic. He developed pain in his right foot after working long hours on the cement floor of the garage. Worried by the pain, Worthington visited an emergency room where doctors believed he had tendonitis. When his pain didn’t improve, doctors at Pan Am Clinic diagnosed him with arthritis. At the time, Worthington was 28.
“It has really affected my life and career choices,” the 36-year-old said. “I stopped doing physical activities. I’ve been to different podiatrists and had different orthotics made, but none made anything better.”
While treatments exist, Worthington and Galon have their own ways of managing their arthritis.
“I don’t bother with medications, because the long-term effects they have on the body aren’t worth it,” Worthington said.
Galon said she turned down treatment when her rheumatologist suggested she start a program of steroid injections into her joints.
“I wasn’t really comfortable taking steroids, and he said that if I did go in for an injection that I would have to do nothing for the rest of the day. I wouldn’t be able to drive. I wouldn’t be able to write. I wouldn’t be able to do anything with the affected area,” she said.
Galon’s doctors also told her the injections could worsen her eyesight, meaning she’d have to visit her optometrist twice a year.
“I wouldn’t be able to fit that into my student life,” she joked.
While Galon said managing her joint pain is sometimes challenging, she doesn’t let arthritis run her life. She said her understanding employer and her diet of special anti-inflammatory foods help her manage her condition.
To manage his arthritis, Worthington said he avoids overexerting himself and tries to keep a positive attitude. He’s studying social work at the University of Manitoba, hoping to find a meaningful career. In the meantime, he’s keeping a sense of humour about his condition.
“I get a good parking spot because of it,” he said.