How to Handle Life’s Surprises

In April 2003 at the age of 64 I was competing in 5K races. In August of that same year, just four months later, I woke up one morning and I could hardly get out of bed because my muscles hurt me so much. Throughout the weeks that followed my muscles became weaker and I honestly felt as though I was dying. I had no energy and could hardly make it through the day. I couldn’t even lift myself up from a sitting position without effort and even walking without severe pain in my leg muscles was impossible. I had been so healthy. I was always conscious of what I put into my body. I was a vegetarian and had never smoked and was an unforgivable ‘tea totaler’. I had always been able to do activities with ease for a person feeling much younger than my years. Why me?
My doctors tested for everything from lupus to leukemia, but it wasn’t until I went to Florida and got the advice of Dr. Robert Hoffman, head of the lupus clinic at Jackson Memorial Hospital, that I got a very quick and precise diagnosis. I was suffering from polymyalgia rheumatica, an overnight onset illness that affects mostly women over 50.
 Because not enough of the population suffer from this illness the drug companies are reluctant to do any type of research about it’s onset and whether it’s genetic or viral. The Mayo Clinic did one study but they were never able to find the cause. They just know that it’s a disease that causes inflammation and weakness of the muscles. 
In my personal research on PMR I scoured the Internet for information which provided little insight on the root of this illness. I also called all of my cousins on both my mother and father’s side to see whether any of them had suffered anything like this or any of their mothers. I came up empty.
The course of treatment is to take prednisone, an anti-inflammatory drug. Prednisone also has many undesirable side effects, some of which include weight gain, loss of bone (osteoporosis), cataracts and puffiness in the face. As a woman, the face puffiness, that was the worst emotional side effect for me, other than feeling that I had lost my youth and stamina. It was the weight gain and that facial distortion because of the prednisone (as indicated in the cover photos of Katherine Turner and me before and after). I had remembered seeing pictures of the actress when her face was blown up and she seemed like she had gained a lot of weight and became quite distorted from her earlier beautiful appearance. 
It was her medication. Katherine suffers from one of the most severe arthritic illnesses. When the ravaging effects of rheumatoid arthritis – a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the joints – and the drugs used to control it caused her to bloat and gain weight, her looks changed, just as mine did.
Because of my frustration with lack of information on PMR I decided to build a very complete informational website concerning this illness that others might be able to use as a reference. Through this website I was contacted by Arthritis Today, a wonderful monthly magazine dealing with all types of arthritis illnesses. They wanted to do an article on me since PMR is a not widely known illness and is considered to be a type of arthritic condition. When the article, Act Two, came out my puffed up face was in full view of the world. I felt terrible, but I also knew my sharing of my story would hopefully help others.
But there was a pot of gold at the end of the PMR road waiting fir me six years later because my illness, unlike Katharine Turner’s had a very lucky natural outcome. One night while I was sleeping, it disappeared overnight. I was off prednisone at last and soon I returned to looking like myself once again. My doctors say that when polymyalgia rheumatica has run its course, it should never ever come back again. Twelve years later that has proven to be true, at least in my case. 
I don’t know exactly what the moral of my story should be because sometimes we face things that we have no control over. There are no quick solutions sometimes. So I guess what my final thoughts are is that life can throw us wrenches and we either have to except it and go on with our lives or give in. 
My choice was not to give in, but to find answers, not only for myself, but for others as well – to share my experience so that they too would not be in the darkness like I was when I was first diagnosed.
Sandra Hart© All Rights Reserved

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Welcome to my world! I have always loved to write, but I have spent most of my adult life in front of either a television or film camera. First as a Romper Room Teacher, then in television series and movies where writing took a backstage place in my life. I am now over 50 and have the freedom to get back to expressing myself through writing. I muse about my life and thoughts and just about everything under the sun. The only order to it is life itself as lived. Natural chaos! I am married and have three grown children who are interested in breeding horses, flying and creating. My youngest is the lead singer/songwriter of the Grammy nominated band, Tonic, Emerson Hart. So here I am, wanting to read about you and at the same time bringing you along with me to mine. I hope you will find me just as interesting as I do you! Hop aboard for the ride.

2 thoughts on “How to Handle Life’s Surprises”

  1. Hi
    I love reading your blogs. Just wanted to say that PMR can return only in a milder form, I did have it return a few times, my sed rate went way up. A good friend of our in AK who is married to a doctor had it return several times too.


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