No webcomic today! Although I promise you there will be some fun cartoon art later down in this post.
But first, let me 'splain…
Over the past few months, I've been having increasing problems with joint pain. It actually started years ago, after I gave birth to the Princess and then had two knee injuries in a row. My knees hurt for months, but eventually the pain faded away to the occasional twinge when I went up and down the stairs. After Pixie was born, my knees began causing me so much trouble, I ended up going to a physical therapist for a couple months to strengthen them and reduce the pain. That seemed to help, and again, the pain faded away to the occasional twinge when heading up or down the stairs.
But the knee pain kept coming back, off and on throughout the years. I realized certain types of exercise – yoga, biking, swimming, water aerobics, and Wii Fit – seemed to keep the pain at bay. Other exercises – high impact stuff like running and karate – seemed to make it worse. I eventually gave up running in favor of water aerobics. As for karate, I started learning how to do things with as little impact on my knees as I could achieve (no more deep knee bends for this karate woman!). I figured it was osteo-arthritis, and it was only natural for a woman approaching her mid-forties to feel aches and pains in her knees from time to time.
Of course, there was also the occasional time when I'd come down with what I thought was the flu and I'd wind up stuck in bed for a day or so. Only I didn't have a fever… Or any congestion… Or any nausea… Or any other symptoms except aches and pains in my joints that put me under the covers with the heating pad for a while.
All of this was okay, though. The knee pain slowed me down a little, the flu-like days were a minor pain but nothing more, and none of it was enough to interfere with my daily life. Then last November I tore my meniscus and ACL in my right leg, and it was all downhill from there.
Let me say up front that I had a very successful reconstructive surgery and that my physical therapy, while it lasted months, did miracles for me. By the time March came around, I no longer limped and I could walk, swim, bike and hop on the elliptical with no pain. But during the months from January to March, I had a couple more instances of those flu-like days. When I went to see my orthapaedist, I told him it felt like I had sick knees; they felt feverish and achy and kept me in bed. The orthapaedist had no idea what it could be, since my knees seemed to be working just fine. He suggested I talk to a specialist, and I said I'd look into it.
I decided to start with a physical first. It had to be scheduled months in advance. The earliest date I could get was in November. Since I was back to normal activity, mostly, and had started easing back into karate classes, I wasn't in any hurry and I figured that was okay. Once the summer started, with all that warm weather, my knee problems mostly seemed to disappear. I was still recovering from the torn ACL, so it seemed natural to me to have problems getting up and down the stairs at the end of a long day. I was in the pool and on the bike with the kids everyday, too, so I expected to be tired. The girls learned to come downstairs to kiss me good night before they went to bed, so I wouldn't have to haul myself upstairs with my tired, aching knees.
And so it went, right through to September. Then sometime in that month, the back ache started. I developed this persistant pain in my lower back that dogged me all day and night. At first, I thought it was because our mattress was overdue to be flipped, so Hubster and I flipped it, but that didn't help. Then I thought the problem might be with our couch. I spend a lot of time there when I draw and crochet, and our couch is over 20 years old. I got some firm pillows to put against my back and made certain to sit with good posture, but that didn't help either.
The knee pain kicked in as well. And then the hip pain. And then the foot pain. That last was especially bad in the morning. In October, when my parents came to visit, I got the shock of my life when I got up early one morning and I met my mother in the hallway. We were both shuffling along with that same, painful, arthritic gate. Only my mom is in her late seventies and I still haven't hit 45 yet.
By that point, I was trying everything I could to get the joint pain under control. I ate gin-soaked raisins and took supplements of tumeric and fish oil and vitamin D. I swallowed huge capsules of OTC pain-relievers. I slept with my heating pad and took plenty of hot baths. I did yoga until I could bend myself completely in half without breaking a sweat. None of it worked.
Finally, November hit and I went in for my physical. I told the doctor everything. She ordered lots of blood tests and prescribed Gabapentin, which is an anti-seizure medication that also works with rheumatoid arthritis pain. I spent a week waking up completely loopy because of the medication I took the night before. When the blood test results came back, everything was normal.
So the doctor forwarded me to a specialist, who I will see in January. In the meantime I am doing everything I can to manage my symptoms. Some days I am so pain-free, I feel 15 years younger. Other days I am back in bed with the heating pad by 6PM. I've learned to pre-set my bed before I head out to pick up the kids from school in the afternoons. I gather up everything I know I'm going to need in the evening – paperwork, iPad, Surface tablet, crochet project, whatever I need to work on – and I lay it out on one side of the bed, along with a comfortable set of sweats or PJs. My work hours have been drastically reduced to 1-2 hours in the day and another 1-2 hours in the evening. I've learned to take advantage of the morning hours, when I have the most energy, for things like exercise and Girl Scouts paperwork (which is probably the most exhausting task I have to face on any given day). I try to save the evenings for drawing and crochet, activities that I can pick up and put down as needed whenever the girls need my help with their homework.
Because of the drain on my work hours, I've also found myself having to make decisions everyday about what I'm going to work on. Last week, I finally emailed the staff at our Girl Scout service unit and told them i needed to step down from the Volunteer Support Team and any committees I was on due to health issues. This weekend, I had to choose between taking a karate test for 4th degree black belt and cleaning the house (no way in hell were both of those tasks going to get done!). And I also had to choose between drawing today's webcomic and drawing a new Christmas card design, something I've been trying to get to for weeks now.
It's probably too late for this card to be done in time for anyone to buy it for is Christmas. I still have several hours of work left to do on it. BUT it will be done in time for any after-Christmas sales that Zazzle may do, so if you're the kind who likes to buy your Christmas cards on sale a year in advance, this one is for you.
(And this is the part where I show you that fun artwork I promised at the beginning of this very long post.)
I'll do a big reveal on the final artwork once it's done and posted to Zazzle, but for right now, the point I really want to get across is this…
I am doing everything I can to draw as fast as I can to keep the webcomics coming. But there are other projects that I need to work on as well. I have a TON of evil greeting cards that I want to draw, and I have promised both my girls that I will illustrate two stories they've written (that's one story per child!) and get those stories epublished somewhere. If for some reason, I don't get the ACW webcomic up on time every Monday, I will at least post something that I'm working on, be it artwork from a greeting card or calendar or an illustration from one of the kids' stories. And you may see more single panel webcomics from me. Honestly, there are plenty of events that happen around me that would make perfect single panel cartoons, and I may even turn some of those into greeting cards as well, if they work out that way.
So what I'm saying is be patient with me. I'm going to see a doctor, and in the mean time I will keep plugging away as best I can. I will even eventually finish setting up the Etsy shop I started working on last month. It will all happen, slowly, over time.