Getting old is not for sissies in my book

Published 4:03 pm Monday, August 8, 2011

The Robinson family on vacation: Red, Phoebe, Robert, Katherine, 4-year-old Tripp and 1-year-old Rushton. (Contributed)

By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist

Getting old is not for sissies, and living with a chronic disease is not for the fainthearted.

I have shared in previous columns about the disease I have, Spondylitis (spondy), which I inherited from my father, Dr. Charles J. Donald Jr., through the gene HLA B-27.

The last two years have been challenging, and I thought I would give my readers an update.

Spondy, an auto-immune disease, can cause many spin-offs. Lucky me, I seem to have gotten most of them: sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, asthma, ulcerative colitis, fibromyalgia, bone spurs, bone fusing and inflammation of the ligaments attached to my bones, which causes hot spots.

The only spin-off I have not gotten is iritis, inflammation of the eye, but the year is not over yet! Spondy is a chronic disease, which means it has no cure. There is no magic bullet to stop this mess in my body.

For me, living with an incurable disease requires a strong positive mental attitude. This is the hand that has been dealt me. I had no choice in that. But what I do have is a choice on how I will play this hand of life. In the last two years, I have had lung and liver biopsies and was diagnosed with BOOP(Bronchiolitis Oblierations with organizing Pneumonia) in my lungs and fibrosis in my liver. My body completely froze in the hospital after the lung biopsy; I literally could not move. I then began to have balance issues. After nine falls in one year, my luck ran out. I shattered my knee cap and had major surgery to pin and wire it back together.

Physically today, I am at the bottom of the barrel, dealing daily with extreme pain and debilitating fatigue. I recently made a vow to do what I can to make the best of this body that God has given me. I have joined Weight Watchers to lose the 50 pounds I gained on biologic drugs. I have joined the YMCA in Pelham to go to warm water therapy, the only exercise I can do.

I have made a commitment to myself: to be happy; to take the best care of this diseased body; and to live life to the fullest each and every day — with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. I am determined to not let this disease win. Life is just too precious.

Phoebe Donald Robinson can be reached by email at

About Phoebe Donald Robinson

I am President of Donald Real Estate and Ins. Co., Inc., a company that my grandfather , Charles J. Donald, founded in 1925. I am the third generation owner of the business. I am also the Columbiana Columnist for the Shelby County Reporter.

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