By Spela | Thu, 06/02/2016 - 15:50
Today, I had the opportunity to talk with an absolutely incredible woman. I hope that I can meet her in person one day.
You probably don’t know her and you probably wouldn’t recognize her on the street. But I can’t imagine that you could speak to her or meet her and not be impacted positively by the experience. Her name is Tiana Hrycak.
I first heard of Tiana when I started looking for content ideas. The web design and development company where I work is sponsoring Kelowna’s 2016 #WalkToFightArthritis on Sunday, June 5th, and I wanted to write a blog about our involvement, and how some of my colleagues had been impacted by the condition. Our Creative Director Chris Arlidge suggested I talk to his mom.
So, I did. And, I’m really glad I did.
When I called Tiana, I was a little nervous. My nervousness didn’t last long. Tiana has a way of speaking that makes you feel instantly comfortable - almost like you’re speaking with a very kind and compassionate friend.
After the initial hello’s, we got down to the purpose of my call: I wanted to know Tiana’s story, specifically about her life with arthritis.
We started with the basics:
S. What kind of arthritis do you have?
T. I have Osteoarthritis.
S. Can you tell me a little bit more about what that form of arthritis is like?
T. It’s nickname is DDD, degenerative disc disease. So the discs in my back degenerate much more quickly than normal.
We chatted a little bit longer about her form of arthritis, and Tiana explained that her arthritis had increased in degree, particularly in her lower back, over the past few years. This is called multilevel advanced lumbar spondylosis. Tiana also has what is called spinal stenosis. This condition cuts off the circulation to the legs and causes pain in the hips and calves.
It was clear that Tiana has a lot of knowledge about her arthritis and is well informed about how it manifests, down to the scientific details.
How does arthritis impact Tiana's every day?
T. I’m in pain every day. I have to medicate every day. The mornings are really painful because you’re kind of bent over.
What’s incredible here is not what Tiana says, but how she says it. It’s clear from her words that she must be in excruciating pain daily. However, her tone is peaceful.
I mention that if Chris hadn’t mentioned that she has arthritis, you could never guess she has it based on the way he describes her.
Tiana loves bowling and plays on a senior’s league twice week in the winter. During the summers, she’s an avid golfer. And, while she can no longer walk the full course - “Girl, hello, accept what is” - she can still get out there and play.
T. I don’t talk about it with him. If I talk to him every day, I’m not going to talk about the pain, or mention if I had a bad day.
And some days, she explains, are better than others. Of course she get’s mentally down, sometimes. But she doesn’t dwell into it. Sure, she says she get’s frustrated some days, and is sometimes made the world. She allows herself to do this, but she does it in private. By the next day, Tiana points out, she usually feels better.
T. It’s not going away. It’s about managing the pain. If I don’t move, I stiffen up. It’s a you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t sort of thing.
So she keeps going. She loves to walk, so she walks. Not as far, or as often, as she might like to, but she does get out there, and, with the help of a fire hydrant and a fence, she walks.
This past weekend, Tiana and her three golfing buddies played in golf tournament. She said it wasn’t the best, as the weather was constantly changing, and the rain towards the last two holes was difficult on her muscles, but she finished regardless.
In the summer, she supports the Cancer Dragonship fundraiser.
She certainly doesn’t let her arthritis stop her. She is more cautious because of it, but she refuses to give up the things she is passionate about. When she needs a break, she takes it. If she needs to stop before the end of a round of golf, she does. If she needs a day to rest, she rests.
And the household chores? If she can’t see it, she ain’t cleaning it.
Tiana was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in 1984 when she was 40 years old. She is 72 now. While her father, mother, and brother all suffered from arthritis, she had no signs of the disease, until one morning in 1984.
Osteoarthritis, when latent, can be triggered by severe stress. Tiana first experienced symptoms after visiting her mother, when her mother’s long time partner passed away. She was hit suddenly the morning she was supposed to head back home. She woke up unable to move. Neither she nor her family knew what it was. She boarded and unboarded the plane in a wheelchair. It was only after she got in to see a physician that she discovered what it was.
S. How did you react to the diagnosis?
T. Well, I wasn’t really happy about it. She says with a laugh. But, I wasn’t overly stunned or upset. I can’t really put it into words. My chiropractor contacted a sports doctor, and together they were able to help. It was fine for years, it’s only in the past 2 to 3 years that it’s become a big deal.
Our conversation ending with a few words about self acceptance and compassion. Tiana left me with the reminder that there are many people who are in much worse situations and in considerably more pain than she is. To paraphrase, her words, while this girl can’t walk the whole golf course, she can still play the whole course.
“I’m no hero,” Tiana stated when she explained the medication she needs to take to manage the pain. She isn’t a martyr, but I think Tiana certainly has some hero in her. It takes tremendous courage, strength of character, and compassion to not only accept your own pain and limitations, but to also focus on the passion and love in your life and to share that positive energy with others.
If you’d like to learn more about arthritis, or would like to support those in our communities who live with the disease, join us for the 2016 Walk to Fight Arthritis.
Sunday, June 5th 2016
Rotary Centre for the Arts
Registration Opens: 8:30am
Start Time: 10:00am
Length: 1km, 5km
If you can’t attend the event, but would like to participate, donate and help us reach our goal of $1000.00.