Usually, when you have osteoarthritis (OA) in your knee, you don’t go out and find a job that keeps you active all day. This is exactly what Sandra did recently.
The 58-year-old Torontonian was surprised by her OA diagnosis 10 years ago. There’s no history of OA or any other form of arthritis in her family and she’s always maintained a healthy diet and lifestyle. As a former competitive sprinter, she had also kept up a running routine throughout the years. When the pain in her knee became persistent, her doctor referred her to a rheumatologist. After all the appointments, tests and the OA diagnosis, her next big question was, “Now what?”
“I was at a loss with what to do,” says Sandra. “I was given cortisone shots in my knee to help the pain, but it wasn’t addressing the underlying issue. So, I went online and started to research. I became a sponge soaking up information and applying it where possible."
Sandra says the Arthritis Society website became her “home for a month." "I read everything,” she explains.
This led to some surprising finds for her: “I realized exercise was going to be my way of managing my arthritis. From everything I read, and the videos I watched, I knew I could manage and overcome this.”
She began working with a personal trainer who suggested she strengthen her knees.
“It was so hard at first. These little exercises would hurt, and they were a pain in the butt to do, but slowly I could feel the muscles around my knee getting stronger and the pain would get more manageable.”
This led Sandra to being able to start running again. Little by little she would increase her distance. Partnering with her good friend and neighbour, she set a goal to run a 5 km race in Niagara Falls in 2017, which they did with great success. “That run was important to me. To know I could do it and I worked hard for it. Doing it with a friend was also important. We would push each other.”
When it comes to daily exercises, Sandra has incorporated yoga into her routine. “Yoga has been my breakthrough. It helps so much. Even on days when I do feel the pain, I get on my mat and do what I can and push through. It helps.”
Now that Sandra walks 10km on average a day working as a mail carrier, a new career that she started in July, yoga has become even more important. “My friends thought I was nuts for getting this job. They kept saying, ‘You have arthritis, how do you do it?’, and I tell them, ‘One step at a time.’”
Getting a job as a mail carrier may seem like an unusual choice for someone with OA in their knee. “I was upfront with my supervisors from day one, and what’s great is that they are aware and supportive of my condition. If I need help or accommodations, I know they’re there.”