A woman stands over the stove about to prepare dinner. Looking over, she sees the cans of vegetables needing to be opened to make her weekly favorite, taco soup. As the pan begins to warm, she realizes that the task of opening the cans is not one she can complete on her own.
She needs help.
Pam Baker has had rheumatoid arthritis since 1977. Over the years, tasks as small as opening cans for dinner have become have become mountains in her daily life.
“It has gotten worse and worse because at first you get pain and then your joints become deformed and as that happens you can’t really use your joints to the full extent. You have to depend on other people to help you more and more,” Pam Baker said.
She first got a touch of arthritis in her feet as it became difficult to walk and stand multiple hours throughout the day. Over the years, it became evident that she also had arthritis in her hands. When she got married and had three children, she had to overcome her pain but couldn’t have done it without the help of her family.
Often times during dinner, she has to recruit the help of her family to do the tasks she can not do such as opening cans or handling heavy pots.
Along with having to depend often on other people, there is another part of her life that is drastically different than a normal life—her mobility.
“Lets say walking in the mall—you could walk in the mall for half a day or more but a continuous walking for me would be limited to two hours and I am exhausted. My feet become swollen and are in sheer agony after that,” Pam Baker said.
In order for Pam to deal with rheumatoid arthritis, she had to stop working with Campus Crusade for Christ, a student discipleship ministry, and become a stay-at-home mom. Even then, the task of being a stay-at-home mom was still a challenge for her.
“Even as a mother and housewife she just doesn’t have the stamina or the strength that most women might have. As ambitious as she would be, she would try to set some goals to accomplish a certain number of things in a day but physically, she just wasn’t able to do it,” Carroll Baker, her husband, said. “That was really hard for her sometimes and discouraging that she couldn’t do all that she wanted to do.”
Although the arthritis still affects her daily, seeking help through doctors has helped Pam improve drastically. With the help of specialists, she has been able to ease some of the daily pain caused by arthritis.
“I am so much better than I was because I am taking medicines. Before, my toes were so sensitive and tender that even for the bed sheet to rest on them as I was laying on my back was painful,” Pam Baker said. “So, I have come a long ways in dealing with arthritis by going to the doctors and having them work with me to help me.”
From dealing with arthritis for 38 years, Pam has learned a lot throughout this time.
“You’ve got to be patient with yourself and look at from where you have come. Know that with the doctor’s help, it is going to get better and it will get better. If it is not getting better then something is the matter,” Pam Baker said. “Don’t take on too much and start realizing your limitations and how much you can and can’t do.”
Carroll does not let her arthritis get in the way of their marriage. Instead, he leaps into action to help her whenever he can. He doesn’t do this because he has to, he does it in the name of love.
Pam does not let her arthritis control her. She has found ways to persevere and, with the help of her family, she will continue to fight it for many years to come.
“We are coming up on twenty nine years [of marriage]. In most marriage vows and ours included, we pledged to each other that we would love each other ‘in sickness and in health’,” Carroll Baker said. “With having arthritis, it definitely put that to the test, but that’s not been an issue because I love her and I’ll take care of her the best that I know how.”
This story was written for the SCSPA Joining Generations Contest. Although I did not place, I still think this is one of the best stories I have written. This was written about my mom and it was cool to just sit down with her and talk even though we talk every day. I got to learn more about her arthritis and even learned a few things that I did not know before.