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What Scares Me

When I had my first joint replacements, I remember telling a friend that I was worried about the lifespan of my joints. My doctor said that the new joints were expected to last 20 years. I hated having that over my head, like an axe ready to drop. My friend said “don’t worry about it, that’s a long time off.”

Well 20 years came and went and one of my joints did fail and need replacement. Going in, I didn’t know how I would make it through and recover. I credit my husband, family, and friends for their support. While it was uncharted territory, we came together to make it happen and get me the treatment I needed.

Now I can cross off a joint revision as my greatest fear because I conquered it. Don’t get me wrong, I really would prefer not to do another, but at least I feel capable of managing should it become a necessity.

Now, it’s other things that give me a fright.

  1. Artificial Joint Infection
    My knee revision a couple years ago was needed because I developed an infection in my joint. While the knee replacement revision was challenging, the worst part was the infection pain and surgical treatment. I had to have my knee removed and replaced with a temporary spacer followed by weeks of IV antibiotics. It all started with debilitating joint pain that I would never want to repeat.
  2. Pneumonia
    Last year I had pneumonia for the first time. Every time I have a chest cold (which is more frequently than I would like), I fear developing pneumonia. It’s both painful and scary. Your lungs hurt and you can’t breathe. Really not a good combination. Plus, it is exhausting and takes a long time for recovery.
  3. Increasing Pain
    I think this is a common fear for all of us living with rheumatoid arthritis. We learn to cope with our current pain level and just don’t want to imagine how to handle worsening pain. Sure, I have good days and bad. I just really don’t want to have more and more bad days.
  4. Decreasing Independence
    As I have lived with RA for more than 35 years, I have lost range of motion and abilities. I have learned to adapt by learning to do things differently and use tools. But I constantly fear not being able to do the things I want and enjoy to do in life. I am always fighting to maintain my quality of life.
  5. Becoming a Burden
    My greatest fear is to become a burden on my loved ones. I want to live with them and not weight them down with worry or responsibility. This has been a lifelong struggle for me. I need and must ask for help. But I like to think that I also give back and want to continue supporting my loved ones as possible. I want to be able to give back.

Some of these fears are closer to reality, but I don’t think it’s bad that they are in my mind. For me, they are motivation to keep as healthy as possible. My fears are reminders that I need to follow my treatment plan and take care of my condition.

As crazy as it sounds, I also think the previous challenges, surgeries, and RA travails are reminders that I can overcome situations that may seem impossible. While I don’t want a joint revision, I know I can get through it. While I don’t enjoy RA flare-ups, I know that they pass and don’t last forever. I can derive strength and hope from past challenges.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Mary
    4 years ago

    Your article caught my eye and so many of your fears mirror my own. I am almost twenty years in, and I have had 24 surgeries to put my body back together! Ironically, pneumonia (and the flu) triggered my RA. I have had two infections in my knee, and infection in general is one of my greatest fears. I have had multiple revisions of my knee and elbow replacements. Some days I feel like the Tin Man :)I try to stay positive, I have a great support system and I also try to stay as healthy as I can. Like you, one of my great worries is being a burden to my family 🙁 I count my blessings every day and take life one step at a time. Wishing you a very Happy (and flare-free) Holiday Kelly. Thank you for sharing!

  • RHPass
    4 years ago

    I am so terrified (yes terrified) of infection I have delayed having knees for 2 yrs. it is so painful to try and walk….but the fear rules my thinking. i will keep reading this and try to be as brave and hopeful as you were and still are!

  • Carla Kienast
    4 years ago

    Yeah, well, just so you know, you’re my hero. I’m fascinated by your story of living without a knee for months. I have three joint replacements (hip, shoulder, knee — in that order), the first two coming up eight years old. I see some of your past in my future (although hopefully not ALL of it). You’ve given me the courage to believe that you made it through, so I can as well. Wishing you a joyful, healthy, pain-free holiday.

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