FOR the past five years Ian Morton-Smith has been forced to learn to live with progressively more pain.

He has osteoarthritis in both knees and his condition has got worse since his diagnosis.

Hope was on the horizon for Ian, or Mort as he prefers to be called, when much-needed surgery was scheduled in May.

But before he could go under the knife, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and his surgery was cancelled.

Feeling helpless and depressed, Mort was at his wit’s end.

Before he discovered Colchester-based charity Arthritis Action at least.

Mort, 70, said: “The pain has become so bad over the past few years it led to me having to give up playing golf – a regular and enjoyable pastime shared with my wife.

“The pain also curtailed my other main leisure interest, sailing, because the arthritis was making it increasingly difficult to move around the boat quickly enough.

“Even playing with my grandchildren before the lockdown became difficult and painful.

“I came across the charity Arthritis Action on the internet, just before lockdown began.

“I noticed they were soon to be holding a two-day seminar for people living with arthritis in Colchester, which my wife and I attended in February. The event was a real eye-opener.

“The lady hosting it revealed she had both knees and both shoulders replaced because of arthritis but was now back playing golf.

“This was a real inspiration for me. It also felt reassuring to be surrounded by 15 to 20 other people, all of whom were facing the same problems I had and could share their stories with me.”

He added: “It felt wonderful to know I wasn’t alone in my struggle.”

Osteoarthritis is most common in the knees, hips and spine and occurs when the protective cartilage which cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time.

Although it is a relatively common condition, often coming as part and parcel with age, it can be incredibly painful and difficult to adjust to.

Mort, who lives in Colchester, said without the help of Arthritis Action he would still be struggling to deal with the mental health side effects of the condition.

“One of the key offshoots of arthritis, in my view, is you feel that your world is shutting down,” he said.

“The feeling you’ve reached an age where your body is wearing out and you will be unable to do many of the things you might have wished to do in your retirement.

“It was uplifting to realise although you might not be able to do everything you used to do, there were other ways of doing things and you could still lead a happy, fulfilling life despite the arthritis.”

Although the lockdown may have curtailed his planned surgery, at least for now, Mort has used the time to engage with others affected by the condition in the community.

He said: “Since the coronavirus lockdown began, I’ve also been attending a number of online group catch ups with other people living with arthritis in Colchester, hosted by the charity.

“These online meetings have allowed me to stay in touch with other people even while isolating at home.

“The feeling of community I get out of the group meetings is, I’d say, the thing which has helped me the most during these unique times.

“Arthritis isn’t the end to my hobbies I thought it was. I now feel more hopeful about my future and far more supported.”

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