Martha Besse considers herself a proud Canadian woman who just happens to be living with the devastating effects of osteoarthritis (OA) as well as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Despite her disease, Martha lives a very healthy and active lifestyle in Toronto. She loves to hike, bike, trail run, golf, cook, and travel. She loves being with people, making them laugh, and experiencing as much of what the world has to offer as she can.
Martha is in her 50’s and received her diagnosis about 5 years ago. She had pain and swelling in both of her hands, and x-rays showed a fair amount of deterioration throughout both hands. Martha was put on an oral medication for a couple years, but the arthritis progressed, and surgery became necessary.
Unfortunately, surgery doesn’t always deliver satisfactory results. Martha’s first hand surgery was in 2017, replacing some of her compromised joints. After six months of physiotherapy saw very little change in pain and mobility, Martha’s doctors recommended a second surgery in the hopes that smaller implants would produce better results. A second surgery in 2018 once again showed little improvement. The doctors realized Martha was actually allergic to the silicon in the joint replacements and they had to be removed. A third surgery is now scheduled for December 2019, and Martha is hoping for better results.
Along with the surgeries, Martha has been tried on numerous medications, trying to find the best solutions to cope with her disease. Her specialist says there are many more treatments still to try and looks forward to research that will help identify and target treatments more effectively.
Despite the setbacks, Martha remains optimistic. Not content to wait on treatments, she has made changes in her everyday life to help her maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, such as using aid-blocks for yoga, altered handlebars on her bike to assist with joint pain, and changing the fingers she uses to type.
“My arthritis has definitely hindered my activity levels, mainly with things like biking, gardening, staying active at the gym, or even holding a book. My hands cannot manage the cold and I’m currently unable to work, though I hope to return soon. It’s been a journey, and a very personal one. I’m thankful to have a supportive family. I mean hey, they have to be, but they keep me laughing! Arthritis won’t stop me. Not from fulfilling my personal goals and doing what I love to do.”
OA is the most common type of arthritis, affecting as many as five million Canadians (which is more than all other forms of arthritis combined). There is currently no cure for OA. However, there are ways to manage the symptoms and improve function. The joints most commonly affected by OA are the knees, hips, big toes, hands and spine. OA affects everyone differently, but common symptoms include joint pain, aching, morning stiffness lasting less than 30 minutes, reduced range of movement in the affected joint(s) and possibly swelling. The symptoms come and go but the intensity of the pain increases over time as OA is a progressive disease.
You can read more information about OA, including how to live well with it, here.