Day Trippin' to Multnomah Falls
INTERESTING STUFF – 10 August 2019

Old Age Really is Not for Sissies

For the past five or six weeks, I've been in a great deal of pain. It's been weird. My joints and various parts of my body ached – often enough to keep me from moving around much.

Getting out of bed and up from a chair was problematic. Not to mention funny if your humor, like mine, leans toward the grim and grotesque: I walked a lot like a crab for 10 to 15 minutes and was grateful there was no one here to see me.

A couple of times the pain was so awful the only comfort was to curl up in bed and weep.

The weird part is that the pain moved around my body. One day my ankles, knees, wrists and upper arms would hurt. The next day it would be my calves, neck, left knee and right wrist. And so on.

Even weirder, until one of my doctors asked me if I'd tried ibuprofen, a pain killer had not occurred to me. Okay, for a majority of my 78 years – 76, in fact, before my cancer was diagnosed - any painkillers in my cupboard were likely to have expired; I hardly ever needed them. Still, how stupid can one old woman be.

The painkillers worked in reducing the pain but not nearly enough to call it a solution. Anyone who's been where I was knows how exhausting constant pain is.

The reason we have such phrases as “one in a million” is that most of the time what happens to me, to you, to others is not singular. In a large number of areas of life, we can relate to one another because our own experiences (good and, in this case, not so good) parallel other people's.

That is the reason I feel okay writing about this – that and the large number of times I have read in the comments here that it helps to know “it” happens to others.

Young and old alike rag on old people for their “organ recitals”. As I think we have have discussed here in the past, there is value in doing this with people in our own circumstance, even when there is not a handy fix.

If we live long enough, there is a constellation of maladies that can afflict us. Pick one. Or two. Or more.

Mine, currently, are cancer and COPD. A couple of weeks ago, one of my physicians thought the drug in the inhaler I was using to help the COPD might be the pain culprit. He ordered an inhaler that uses a different class of drugs.

After a week of bureaucratic chitchat among my insurance provider, the pharmacy and doctor's office that was time-consuming for me and is mind-numbing to recount (so I won't), I finally got the new inhaler. It's a finicky little bugger that refuses to emit the medication sometimes (says the brochure) even if the user seems to have correctly followed the seven steps involved.

So far “sometimes” is an understatement since it happened on only the third day I used it. Printed in minute text, the instructions are nearly unreadable but I did find further notes and the final admonition to “Call your doctor for instructions” if this happens.

As I write this, I am awaiting a return call.

Here's the good news. Although I am still taking an over-the-counter painkiller, I can tell that the pain is diminishing by the day. I can get out of bed and up from a chair with only about 15 seconds of “crab walking” instead of 15 minutes.

As of two days ago, I can raise my arms above my head – important when reheating coffee in the microwave – for the first time in a month or more. What pains remain are not as fierce as in the past weeks.

It appears the doctor, who mentioned that he had never seen the pain side effect from that first inhaler before, pulled a Dr. House out of his hat for me.

It was decades ago that the actor Bette Davis who, in the space of less than a year was diagnosed with and underwent surgery for breast cancer followed in quick succession by several strokes, uttered her famous quip, “Old age ain't for sissies.”

As cogent as it is, it is way overused and I'm tired of hearing it for every hangnail. But these days, I sure do get the point.


And I'm sending you my empathy (not having to imagine your circumstances because they are very real at times in my life) well as the little kitten in a tree poster which said "Hang in there Baby!"

Your name and "sissy" do not ever occur in the same thought, for me. Far from it! That said, I'm hoping that the back of your right hand was not painful for you, Wednesday. I had that covered! Unlike you, I have thought to take one tablet of NSAID each morning, since, and my hand is behaving well. It strains my imagination to think how you must have felt feeling that way over various parts of your body.

If only there were something we fans/blog friends could do to relieve the pains that you (and others) feel! Heartfelt good wishes to you (and them).

Be brave---- take lots of Ibuprofen----
if it works and if you can prevent suffering --why deny yourself?

If you know morning is your bad time ---get out front of the pain and take a large amount. Hopefully your doctor says 600mg or more.

My brother took 600mg three times a day for years for pain.

Ask yourself --- What is the downside for you?

I hear you, Ronni!

In my soul's medicine cabinet and mantra on resisting cynical snark —

"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto" ("I am human, and I think nothing human is alien to me). — Terence (195/185–159 BCE), a comic playwright of the Roman Republic.

Love you!

I realize many people have problems with Aspirin, and popping them like M&Ms is probably not good for you. However, after trying the Tylenol's and Motrin's to ease my back pain, old fashioned aspirin did the trick. And they don't conflict with most other medications. Now, how about a nice mustard plaster?

I'm glad you may have found the cause. That's half the battle.

Enduring pain is so exhausting. Makes one feel a like a whole different person. I really hope your doctor has pulled a rabbit out of the hat and that you can be free of it.

I'm so happy to hear you and your doc found a road out this. Pain makes us into another person. I take aspirin these days after telling the doctor about my arthritic pains. She asked what I was taking and like you I was taking nothing. Oh well. Ibuprofen works too but it constipates me, there's some TMI.

Ronni I’m concerned that you are reaching up to take heated coffee out of your microwave. Is there somewhere you could have it eye level or lower? Thinking of a hot coffee, knocked on the way down...xx


It's the normal kitchen arrangement with the microwave above the stove. It's not THAT high and no big deal except when you arm hurts a lot. It's getting better and better.

Ahh that’s good to know. xx

Much agreed. Aches and pains become "GI" as one ages. The benefits of ibuprofen and acetaminophen have become necessities as I age. Joint pain is inevitable; my right leg was
crushed in 1994 and nearly amputated in a work related injury. The big "I" was first given to me in 1983 by an AF Colonel to help with shin splints in my legs. I was 34 1/2 trying to keep up with 18-19 year olds in boot camp at Lackland. Since then, I only used these OTC drugs occasionally as needed. The older I get the more I look for bargains. Yep, old age is not for
sissies as we are all finding out now. B

I now take an opiate for chronic back pain joined by crippling arthritis and congestive heart failure --just to let you see that I know what pain can be. .But here is a funny story for you.

My sister and I are in our 80s and both suffer from a degree of urinary incontinence. We can be out and about without a care until we get home and start to open our front doors. Bingo! We then both have to rush to the loo. We find this ridiculous.

Then, a few days ago she listened to a radio talk on the subject. The first caller-in began with " I have no problem until I get home and put my key in the lock" So...we aren't the only weirdos out there...

I have been an appreciative reader of your blog for a very long time. I hope that you are aware of how helpful it is and how many unknown friends you have out in the ether?

Ah, yes, that bent over pose, your back refusing to straighten, your brain wondering why you are even considering such an alien idea. Even after the pain-every-day piece of my healing ended, my body refused to acknowledge that it wouldn't hurt to stand up.... and so I crab walked to the toilet every morning.

Nice to know I'm not alone :-)

Oh no, the word "stupid" and Ronnie, they just don't fit at ALL. We do seem to be creatures of habit to a great extent. It still takes me being in some kind of unpleasantness for a day or more before it comes to mind that there are remedies for the malady at hand. I'm glad your doc got the picture, that hopefully you are on your way out of the woods now, picking a few daisies as you cross from woods to lovely fields. Many blessings.

I remember when I had a knee replacement some years ago and had to be on pain meds for a short time. The physical therapist said to “ get ahead of the pain” as Victoria suggested.

I cringe reading suggestions to take larger amounts of painkillers (ibuprofen) if they work. Be careful not to walk (or crawl) into more complications. Taking 2 a day for backpain led to hospitalization for bleeding duodenal ulcers & now more medication for the rest of my life!

Oh Ronni, I'm so sorry to read that you are in such pain, but I had to laugh at your description of "walking like a crab". I do that too and am happy that my husband is usually still sound asleep when I wake and scuttle off to the bathroom.

I hope your pain resolves with the change in medication. You have quite enough to deal with, thank you very much!

Upwards and Onwards Dear Friend!

I had an arthritis flare in my knee--only my knee!--some time back, and the pain was debilitating. I cannot imagine that kind of pain over more of your body! The OTC stuff didn't touch it.

Re the incontinence thing--I have it too and have for quite a while--fine until I get home, and then. . .

Yes, ongoing pain can totally hit the delete key on joy in life; it's even more discouraging when no cure is in sight (there is no cure for the wear and tear of old age!). I know I'm not the same person now as I was before pain took up permanent residence, now almost 3 years ago.

I'm happy for you that an apparent cause was found and is treatable. With today's "opioid crisis" it is difficult--no, impossible!--for many to get effective pain relief. I have taken a low dose of a mild opiate responsibly for years, but now patients living with pain must fear being cut off, forcibly "tapered" or even abandoned by their doctors. Pain and stress can certainly remove the gold from one's "Golden Years".

Like Ann S., I cannot take NSAIDs such as ibuprofen due to severe gastrointestinal side effects, although I can tolerate 2 aspirin most days. Acetaminophen alone has never been of any help even in liver-destroying doses.

No, old age really is not for sissies.

I'm reading an Anita Brookner book where the main protagonist keeps his supply of "Kill me now" pills close at hand at all times as he negotiates maneuvering his deteriorating body.

Brilliant, I think. Now how do I get a supply? Maybe the hemlock club or some such.

Which is all in the way of saying I hear you. I consider it a miracle if I straighten up before I hit the toilet in the morning. Lots of help me bars in the place I live now. I am grateful and unashamed. Strange pains in different places. Often before I find sleep.


When I fell and fractured my pelvis in two places, I discovered the real and all too true meaning of the phrase "exquisite pain" !! Those two words together had never really meant anything to me up until that fall. The word exquisite had always been associated with silk clothing or large diamonds up until now. But now, I realize that it's the only word that truly describes that kind of pain!

That's when I succumbed and acquired (fortunately quite legal here in California) a candy containing cannabis oil. It was amazing. That's the only word I can use here. It helped me and my sanity survive.

Hey, WWW, I'd vote for finding a good source of "Kill Me Now" pills or elixirs or ???!! I'm not there yet but can foresee a day on the horizon that I might be, especially if my pain level increases and I cannot find adequate treatment.

Although physician assistance in dying is legal in my state, for which I'm grateful, residents have to be near death already to qualify for it. Of course, we also have tall bridges, lots of multistory buildings, swift rivers, steep curvy roads and firearms, but all seem difficult to pull off for an old person--and pretty scary!--at least at this point.

You, and each of those of you who commented, help those of us with chronic pain feel less stupid than my oncologist makes me feel! (He said he wasn't a pain doc and refused to connect any dots that others do.)

Pain - mild, moderate, severe; periodic and chronic - stinks. You exemplify how to cope better.

Blessings on all your body parts for less pain.

Jeez, Ronni, it's one damned thing after another, isn't it? I'm so sorry you have been in so much pain - that should not have happened to you - and am glad it is diminishing. You really are one tough broad. If I had had the pain you describe, I'd have been at the emergency room. I'm sending every good wish to you.

Why on earth is your doctor not giving you oxycodone or at least percocet? You are in major pain and you have a terminal disease. The anti-opioid movement has gotten ridiculous.

Totally agree about the anti-opioid snit our government is in. It is punishing both cancer and non-cancer patients living with pain. It should be pretty easy to sort out medication-compliant, chronic pain patients in their 70s-80s from 20-something recreational drug abusers shooting up fentanyl from China, but that seems to be a reach too far for our omniscient, self-righteous government officials. So we all get punished.

If one cannot take NSAIDs and acetaminophen alone doesn't work (even in liver-poisoning doses), what then?! I've tried a number of other medications, as well as physical therapy, massage, acupuncture. heat/cold therapy, topical anesthetics and, yes, even CBD. I haven't found the right strain yet, I guess, since it hasn't helped so far. Oh, yes, there are always "alternative therapies", but gazing at lovely scenery while chanting "om" doesn't quite get it.

Today has NOT been a great day!

Thank you Elizabeth and I am sorry for your pain. There are many pain relieving medications available and you are totally right about the idiotic refusal of the "woke" medical establishment to adequately treat pain. I had both knees replaced five years ago and got every pill I could out of my surgeon. My sister-in-law had one knee done this year and was told to take Tylenol. People need to confront these New Age Puritanical Doctors -- It is grotesque.

There are lots of youtube videos on the use of inhalers. If you can't find the one for your particular type, call your pharmacist. ( much more available than a doctor)
Pain ... I read that Oregon is a state where medical marijuana is available. Think of it as part of the arsenal to maintain quality of life. Whatever works!
Wishing you the best always.

I really hope that the aches and pains who have bben suffering dwindle away and that you have weeks where you can forget that you have cancer and COPD.


I admire your willingness to narrate and share your journey. This bird's eye view you keep revealing is so valuable and instructive to me. I sit with and feel your determination and resilience wash over me...and truly feel awe.

I admire your grace and candor and continue to feel blessed to have you in my life.

Really good news, or the hope of it, that the change of drugs may have been the ticket. Please keep us posted!

Hi Ronnie - I wonder if you couldn't get a palliative care nurse who might come to you on call. After having a horrible choking gagging spitting night hosted by COPD I went to my doc insisting on morphine [which I had seen work so well for a patient in COPD rehab] for the next time. I refused to take his No for an answer (I live alone, don't want to go to hospital, prepared and preparing to leave this world in my own bed) and he relented and sent me a wonderful palliative care nurse who will come [or send someone] if I am again choking uncontrollably. She will bring morphine!! I now attend a group of the Living Well sponsored by Palliative Care - many of them are on daily morphine.
For god's sake take advantage of all the services you can. We olders earned them and I am sure you did.
The facebook group "I have COPD, it doesn't have me" is excellent.
Take care my dear and thanks for doing what you do so well - sharing your life!

I hope your changes are relieving your pain, walking like a crab shows how severe the pain was for you. One thing I use on sore joints is magnesium oil which I spray on and rub in lightly.

Use it or lose it is my mantra! Even if I am in pain I take a walk or ride my bike or take a yoga class. It is the only way to stay pain free without drugs.


How lucky for you that your pain is light enough to work through. We would all wish for that but some pain is either unbearable or comes with muscle or joint weakness that can cause a fall if you try.

Ibuprofen is a staple around here. We both take it (as needed and that's not rare). We buy the big bottles from Walgreens and go through them in a couple of months! We're probably lucky we can tolerate it.

Hang in there!

If you’re old you probably have pain to one degree or another. You may not want to believe it, but those of you who find relief in ibuprofen or acetaminophen are lucky. Like Elizabeth and others here, I have chronic arthritis and neuropathic pain. I also have the kind of sporadic pains that Ronni describes so well, but I take so many medications that finding the culprit, if there is one, would be a monumental task. Walking like a crab as well as holding onto furniture (when I’m not using my cane) are standard operating procedures for me.

I also have diverticulosis, for which I had major GI surgery some years ago. My fragile GI system cannot tolerate more aspirin than the standard low therapeutic dose for my heart problems, and acetaminophen is mostly decorative. The only medication that maintains my ability to move my body and to cope with daily living is hydrocodone, a minor opioid, which I have been using responsibly for several years. Elizabeth describes well what we older opioid users go through just to get a maintenance dosage of this beneficial drug.

Unfortunately recreational drug users ruined it for the rest of us by choosing to get high from a perfectly good pain medication. All doctors know quite well that there is a vast difference between recreational users and responsible users of opioids. The DEA decided that, since there was almost nothing the Government could really fix, they would scapegoat all opioid users and get a lot of good publicity by going after this low-hanging fruit. Few doctors have been ethical enough or brave enough to challenge the DEA and support the needs of their patients during this latest media craze.

For those of you not opposed to drugs (Suzanne tells of "staying pain free without drugs...)
I have to mention gabapentin -- the most amazing drug I have ever taken (I couldn't continue because I was allergic) -- it is prescribed for neuropathy and off label for many other things. There are so many pain relieving options that what Ronnie described going through is totally unacceptable. If people want to be "drug free," that's fine for them, but don't advise those suffering like Ronnie to take a walk, ride a bike or do a little yoga. It really ends up being insulting to what she is living through.

Since I have tried just about everything—physical therapy, OTC meds, salves, marijuana, spinal injections, acupuncture—I have a few words to say about Gabapentin. When I first tried it, I thought it was a miracle drug because it seemed to work when other drugs had not. But since my problem is chronic, after awhile I noticed what to me was the worst drug side effect possible. Gabapentin made me stupid and stupid is one side effect I can’t abide. It’s probably fine for short term needs, but not for medium or long term treatment.

Hydrocodone is the most effective drug with the fewest side effects—the only serious one being constipation, which can be overcome if one is vigilant about taking various fibers and stool softeners. The worst disadvantage of opioids is that doctors are capitulating to the DEA purge and abandoning their patients who need this medication. Some people might cite dependence as a problematic side effect, but if the patient uses the drug responsibly and doesn’t increase its dosage, that effect is no worse than, say, dependence on insulin.

I'm so sorry, Ronni. I'm glad the ibuprofen is helping.

The comments to this entry are closed.