“Stretching exercises. Twice a day. Three times, if you can handle it, pain-wise. Then ice. Ten minutes, each side. Then heat for twenty…”

So said Joe the physical therapist a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been doing just as he instructed. The exercises are uncomfortable, but they don’t hurt me, so I’ve gone ahead and upped them to three times a day, and also upped the number of repetitions for each one.

I just switched my big gel-ice pack from my left hip to my right. I’m waiting with crossed fingers for the latest dose of Tramadol to kick in. So far, the PT hasn’t relieved any of my pain; if anything, it’s increased it. I have another appointment with the pain doc on Monday. More cortisone injections? Are there other options? Can bursitis be cured?

Hear that growling sound? That’s your Wren.

Never mind. I’ve got a challenge ahead today: I’m taking my disabled uncle, a Korean War-era Marine, to the VA hospital for an appointment with his eye doctor. Uncle J suffered a severe stroke about eight years ago. It left him mostly blind and mostly unable to walk without a walker, and when he’s out, he needs a wheelchair for mobility.

My favorite Aunt is his caretaker and usually takes him to his appointments, but she needed a break, and since I’m very familiar with the VA facility, I offered to help out. I’ve done it a couple of times now. Uncle J likes my company and is comfortable with my company and care, so this works out well for all of us.

Except for my bloody bursitis hips and, of course, my bloody rheuma. Neither is bad enough, at the moment, to stop me today, but both are aching and twinging and making me want to do nothing more than curl up with my ice pack and my heat packs. I want to whine and complain about the unfairness of it all. I want someone to coddle me and rock me and make it all better.

Heh. Real world: Mom wants to coddle me, but she’s the one who needs the coddling right now, so we’re sort of passing the effort back and forth. That makes me smile, you know? And it’s good that she’s feeling well enough, and strong enough, that I can leave her alone for a while in order to help my aunt and uncle out. Aunt P really needs the rest; she’s cheerful and tough as nails, but sometimes, at 75 years old, she just wears out.

I’m here. I have nothing but time. I can do it, and I’m happy to. And honestly, it’s good for me to have others who need me. Helping my elderly relatives takes my mind off my own woes, and that’s nothing but good. Helping them puts my energy, relative youth and strength to good use. Best yet, doing this has given me an opportunity to get to know them again, this time as an adult rather than as a child, which is where most of my memories of my aunt and uncle come from. It’s good to talk to them and share those memories.

Helping Uncle J has also been a real lesson for me regarding the obstacles disabled persons face every single day. Along with their disabilities themselves, these obstacles range from curb-cuts to narrow walkways to irritation and condescension from strangers. It’s a different world. I thought I understood it, having been partially, if temporarily, disabled many times over the years by my RA. But really, I had no idea. I’m getting a real education.

I need to get ready to go. Outside, we’re having a truly amazing storm, with high winds, rain and sleet. So, it’s time to take a deep breath, lift my chin, square my shoulders and deal. Wish me luck!