“Pain,” a sadistic Navy master chief once yelled at me, “is only the beginning.”

Pain has a way of becoming part of your life. A rambunctious youth and too many broken bones left me with severe arthritis, a number of joints that don’t work as well as they should, and some non-OEM replacement parts that don’t quite live up to manufacturer’s claims.

You learn to accept the pain. A walk up a short flight of stairs becomes an Everest-sized challenge to knees and ankles encrusted with calcium deposits. Typing strains arthritic fingers while lubricant-starved sockets limit arm movement.

Two years ago, I slipped and fell on a slick sidewalk in Arlington and thought I sprained my ankle. After 10 days, the pain hadn’t subsided so I went to the doctor for an x-ray.

“You may have broken your ankle,” he said.


“I can ‘t tell. You have so much calcium around the ankle from previous breaks that I can’t see through the mass.”

Twenty years ago, I broke my left arm and dislocated my shoulder playing softball. The doctor warned me then there would be “a lot of pain in your future” because of the dozen or so bones broken in earlier years.

He wasn’t lying. Morning walks, once part of my daily routine, ceased late last year because I can no longer climb the hill back up to my house. As a photographer, I spend a lot of time on my knees, shooting from low angles. Getting down is not the problem. Getting up is. Last week, my left knee buckled after a night of shooting basketball. It now pops like a twig every time I bend it.

At Tri-Area Health Clinic Wednesday, Dr. Stephen Huff looked at x-rays of the knee and shook his head.

“Your arthritis is getting much, much worse,” he said as he ordered an MRI on the knee, and predicted yet another round of knee surgery in the my future.

Then I strapped my knees back into their braces and limped home to soak them in a hot tub where relief, while welcome, is only temporary.

Pain was only the beginning. Eventually it becomes the norm. The challenge, as always, is to control it and not allow it to control you, a challenge that those of us who live with pain face every day of our lives.