Sunday, July 31, 2011

How Arthritis Helped Me Start a Jewelry Business

In just another month, I am "going under the knife" so to speak - getting both of my hips replaced.  It has been a long four and a half year road arriving to this point, but I am ready both mentally and physically now to do this.  You might ask, "What does bilateral hip replacement have to do with my jewelry blog?"  Well, nothing actually, but the process that brought me here has everything to do with how I ever started making and selling jewelry.

I started having pain in my right hip first about four years ago, but then not long afterward also developed pain in my left hip.  At first, I thought I just had strained my self overdoing.  After all, I have always been extremely active.  I worked out regularly, walked my black labrador retriever "Buddy" three to five miles daily several times per week and did a lot of yard work.  Other than routine soreness, I had never had much trouble.

Well, my pain and soreness this time did not improve as it had in the past, and in fact steadily worsened.  Ironically, my dog Buddy also developed hip problems about the same time and we both became less able to do the things we once so enjoyed.  Buddy died about 2 1/2 years ago, and I along with my family grieved and still miss him.  But, we do have another dog now named Jenny who is an absolute delight.

Back to my story, though.  X-rays done four years ago when I first became symptomatic showed some mild arthritis in my hips.  I was 50 years old at the time.  Over the next couple of years, my pain increased as my mobility decreased.  My x-rays now show severe osteoarthritis - or degenerative joint disease.  What I now know, is that I have a condition called hip dysplasia - which means my hip sockets are more shallow than they should be.  This condition inevitably leads to arthritis as the too shallow hip sockets lose their cartilage with increased wear and tear.

As I became increasingly unable to be as physcially active as I once was, I began to seek mentally challenging activies.  I started making very simple jewelry designs at first, gradually adding more complex designs as I improved my skills.  I started first selling my jewelry on Ebay in 2007, later moving to Etsy and ArtFire.  I now also sell my designs in a jewelry and art gallery in Charlotte, NC called Ruby's Gift, and will soon be selling in another local store in the town of Clover called Crafty on Main.

Now I do not mean to say I am totally sedentary.  In fact, I still continue to work 36 hours per week in an urgent care facility as a nurse practitioner.  Although there have been days this has been physically depleting for me, I have not missed a single day of work ever during the past four years.  I am glad to have had the chance to continue working, enjoying the sense of camaraderie I have with my co-workers and the opportunity to work and interact with a wide variety of wonderful patients.

During my days off and early in the mornings when I just could not sleep because of pain, I have continued to nurture and develop my jewelry business.  And I must say, it has become a passion for me.  Looking back, I do not think I would ever have started down this path of jewelry design had I not had the need to look for a pastime to fill my time.

So, now in another four weeks, I get my new hips.  My hope is to regain my previous level of activity.   I want to walk my dog Jenny again, get in my yard and do my yard work.  I want to work a full day without going home physically exhausted from suppressing and "tuning out" pain.  I want to be able sleep without pain.  I want to be able to go up stairs easily, get dressed without difficulty and a whole host of other everyday activities that right now require a lot of energy and effort.  I look forward to getting that part of my life back!

But I do not mean to evoke sympathy or pity because I also look forward to continuing on with my jewelry business.  It has now become a part of me that I choose not to give up!  It would honestly be like cutting out a part of me now.  So even though dealing with my hip arthritis has been life altering, I choose to see the positive in it all.  I would not have this fulfilling passion and part of my life now if it had not happened.

My surgery is scheduled for August 29 - I will have turned 55 by then.  I will have to be out of work totally for eight weeks, and then will be allowed to work half days for another four weeks before returning full time to my job as a nurse practitioner.  During that time, I will convalesce and rehab, but also, what else - work on my jewelry!  I look forward to weaving a passion for my jewelry business into a life filled with all my previous physical activities.

Before closing, I want to share some favorite quotes that have inspired me to pursue something that has been very fulfilling for me:

"Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity."  By Lou Holtz.

"If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it."  By Mary Engelbreit.

"The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them."  Unknown.