My children were in grades 6 and 3 when I had hip replacement surgery. It was a very challenging time because I was in a lot of pain and not able to do much physically. Before I went into surgery, I prayed to the heavens above that all would go well. I was terrified of something going wrong and my kids being left without a mother.
In the months leading up to my surgery, the pain was unbearable and I couldn’t even get out of bed to go to the washroom on my own. My husband had to carry me. Mentally, that was a tough moment for me.
I was always worried about how my AS would affect my children because I didn’t want them to be burdened by my disease. If you’re a parent with AS, you understand how hard it is to raise your children while you’re also having regular flares.
It’s difficult to take care of yourself with a flare. But it’s even more challenging when you want to do the activities that you love with them.
I once had a painful flare-up when we took the kids to the zoo. Seeing all the animals was bittersweet because I was in so much pain. I couldn’t fully enjoy myself.
I kept my feelings of pain to myself because I didn’t want to ruin the day.
It's difficult to keep up with your kids when you’re in pain, but I believe it’s important to try. Even if you can’t walk around the zoo like you used to, you can still enjoy watching your children have fun.
Here are some suggestions to manage the frequency of flares so you can spend more quality time with your kids:
Stay on top of medications
I take them as prescribed and let my doctor know if I have any concerns. If I’m feeling good, it’s tempting to skip a dose or two, but this may trigger a flare. I don’t want to go back to the days of crying and sucking my thumb like a baby.
Exercise several days a week
I might not be able to do some things I used to, but I still get moving as much as possible. I love to go out on walks by myself or with my dog, Stella. Exercise is important for maintaining muscle and bone mass, improving joint function, and reducing pain.
Eat a healthy diet
The diet I eat is low in inflammatory foods. High amounts of sugar and processed foods are things I try to avoid. I limit my consumption of red meat to once a week and alcohol to once a month. I also eat fruit, green vegetables, fish, and healthy fats like avocados.
Breaking up my workday with 15-minute breaks helps me avoid stiffness in my muscles. I also take time for myself at night to do things I enjoy. I read one of my many personal development books or take a bubble bath. Reducing stress is important for managing AS because it can trigger flares.
Ultimately, the best way to manage your flares is to have a plan in place so that you know what to do when they happen.
The following are some things that have worked well for me in the past while I was managing pain with my kids:
- Being prepared with quick and easy meals. I had things like frozen meals and quick snacks on hand so that I didn’t have to cook when in a flare.
- Having a list of activities that my kids can do. I put together a list of things my kids could do on their own, like watching a movie or playing a game so I could rest when in pain.
- Asking for help from family and friends. I was never afraid to ask for help when I needed it. I knew that my loved ones would be more than happy to help me out so that I could focus on getting better.
- Being patient, understanding, and calm throughout the process. I knew that managing a flare would take time and that there would be good days and bad days. I tried to remain patient and calm with myself and my kids during the process.
I know from experience that some days it feels like AS is taking over your life, but it’s important to remember that you have a choice in how you perceive and manage your pain. With the right mindset and support system, you can get through anything.
Parenting is hard enough. Don’t let ankylosing spondylitis stop you from being the best parent you can be.
Photo Credit: Compassionate Eye Foundation/Rennie Solis / DigitalVision via Getty Images
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