For much of her life, Rosey, who is 77 years old, was an active, independent, self-sufficient woman.
“I bought a 107-year-old, three-family house, and I got up on a ladder and scraped the 14-foot ceilings myself,” Rosey reflects. “In 10 months, I got my whole apartment rehabilitated while I was working full time. I would wake up in the morning, put on my fancy business suit, and slide out my apartment sideways so I wouldn’t touch anything covered in plaster dust. And I would come back home after a long, long day, take off my fancy suit, put on my grungy jeans and work for another four or five hours on the house.”
But after battling and beating uterine cancer 20 years ago, Rosey was left in crippling pain. The radiation therapy, though a crucial part of her cancer treatment, left Rosey with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition.
“To have days when I felt like I was run over by a truck, it was a shock to my whole way of being,” Rosey explains. “Going from being a hyperactive adult to someone whose body won’t let them do that anymore is a huge mental shift.”
She had trouble sleeping, completing everyday tasks, and keeping up with her medications.
Rosey’s primary care physician, Dr. Richard Lopez, referred her to Harvard Vanguard’s Functional Restoration Program to help her cope with her pain. The intensive, behaviorally-oriented physical therapy program focuses on increasing function and activity in spite of pain. It also teaches people to better cope and manage pain in a setting with others dealing with chronic pain. Patients of the program attend regular group visits with an interdisciplinary team made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, and pain management specialists.
“I was quite skeptical about it. I thought, What in the world is this going to do for me? How is sharing time with my clinicians better than being able to see them one-on-one?”
Rosey’s skepticism quickly faded away. She found the program to be hugely beneficial.
“You get to hear what other people are doing,” Rosey explains. “What these joint meetings provide for a person is some food for thought. It just enriches the process of learning about your own disease, ways to treat it, and things you can do to improve your well-being.”
Before the program, Rosey found herself doing too much…and paying the consequences.
The Functional Restoration Program taught her that she couldn’t do it all, but she could still be active if she set realistic expectations for herself.
“Sitting there listening to the other people talk about how they’ve restructured their lives, how they’ve learned to take rest periods and take their medication, those were all things I needed to learn.”
Now Rosey makes it a goal to take her medications regularly, plan her schedule around her pain, and set a realistic goal of having two items on her daily to-do list. More importantly, she’s learned to lean on others for help. She lives in senior housing, and she has someone who does her food shopping, someone who helps with heavy housework and laundry, and someone to help her with cooking a few days per week.
Since learning how to better manage her pain, Rosey has been able to do much more, and she’s found pride in volunteering.
“When I retired about nine years ago, I just felt totally adrift,” Rosey explains. “I didn’t think I could find something that was as absorbing as work had been. And then I thought I would volunteer.”
Every other week for the last eight years, Rosey has volunteered at a hospice near her home. “It’s a collaborative, cooperative environment and you get to do something that makes you feel good about yourself. It’s soul work.”
Rosey is 77 and lives in Wakefield.