Arthritis: Enemy of those who work

New York reporter and columnist Jimmy Breslin became an early mentor who said one of the first things that could ever happen to a old newspaperman was arthritis in the hands and fingers. The creeping advance of the rheumatoid arthritis often makes typing painful and difficult — severe limitations to one who tries to make a living in front of a keyboard. It also limits movements when attempting to focus a camera or punch a shutter release button.

“If I can’t type, I can’t write and if I can’t write, noting really is left,” Breslin wrote in a column in 1965. Nearly 40 years later, I met Breslin at a writer’s conference in Manhattan and saw his knurled fingers.

My rheumatoid arthritis causes cramps that leave my hands twisted into disfigured tools of my trade.

“Fortunately, I’m a two-finger typist,” Breslin said in . “Writing now is in the wrist.”

Bresllin died in 2017 at age 88. He pretty much stopped writing about 10 years earlier. The arthritis in his hands and fingers finally made even two-finger typing damn difficult.

He often said he wrote best when he got inside the heads of his subject and became them.

I replaced my feelings with what I felt were the feelings of others. That changed with each thing I went to, so I was about 67 people in my life.

At 71, I feel the physical limitations from a body too often abused. Typing is difficult, especially for someone who once typed well over 100 a minutes. So is hauling around a couple of digital single lens reflex cameras with heavy lenses.

A frozen left shoulder, which limits arm movements, causes problems for someone who is predominantly left-handed. Fortunately, I’m what the docs call “cross dominant,” which allows me to shift some of the physical activities to the other hand.

After nearly six years of physical therapy following the motorcyce accident that doctors say should have killed or — at the very least — crippled me have led to what the doctors call “acceptance of new realities of life and age.”

Carol Eustace, writing on the Everyday Health website, says one must adapt:

There are consequences, some possibly dire, if we do not accept our new reality. If you overlook or ignore that you can no longer do something, you may be risking a flare of symptoms, injury, or worse.

The structure and routine of your life before rheumatoid arthritis gives way to the need for you to be flexible and adaptable. You must overcome your desire to force things to remain the same, to resist change, or to push beyond your limits. Otherwise, you may make harmful or destructive choices.

Adapting to change does not come easy for someone who started working full-time at age 15 — 56 years ago.

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