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Susan Estrich
12 Feb 2016
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5 Feb 2016
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Grace and Acceptance


It started with my hands. They hurt. They were numb and tingling, and the pain went up and down my arms.

I did not like it.

I am a worrier, not a whiner. I'll put up with almost any level of pain and discomfort, so long as it's not accompanied by fear of something worse. Tell me it's not terminal, and I'm ready to go back to work. I proudly think of myself as a horse — I worked through walking pneumonia, gave a speech right out of the operating room after hernia surgery and billed most of the hours I spent in labor to a client who, believe me, got almost my full attention.

Not being able to use my hands is a problem. I'm not a pianist, but I am a typist. So, with my hands throbbing, I did what we do these days: I typed "sore, swollen, numb hands" into my web browser and promptly got inundated.

Carpal tunnel sounded right: 30 years on a computer, three jobs, four columns a week, briefs and motions. Could be me.

The good thing about carpal tunnel is you don't die of it. You deal with it; you have surgery if necessary. I went to the hand surgeon and then to the doctor who puts needles in your fingers and checks the electromagnetic current. They agreed on the diagnosis: carpal tunnel in both hands. Surgery recommended. No problem.

But then my feet started hurting. I called my friend and internist and asked him whether it was possible that I could also have carpal tunnel in my feet. I was kidding, but actually there is such a thing. The only problem was, or is, that I don't have it.

So I had the surgery on one hand, but the other hand and my feet, and also my elbow if I'm being honest, hurt just about as much as my supposedly fixed hand. "Was it really carpal tunnel?" I asked my hand surgeon, a talented and lovely man.

"Absolutely," he said.

"So why does everything else still hurt?" He looked at my toes and suggested I see a rheumatologist — another doctor, another set of forms, another history and more insurance cards to be photocopied on both sides.

I'm not complaining.

I have insurance. I have access to health care. I may work three jobs, but at least I can take time to run to my different doctors. The rheumatologist didn't like what he saw. More X-rays. More blood work. More tests.

He talked to my hand doctor, my heart doctor and the various other doctors on the growing list of a healthy boomer getting older. I remember how my mother, in her last years, spent most of her days going to doctors, how which doctor and what for was the topic of every conversation. I remember thinking, not meanly I hope, that this was not a life I looked forward to. All of a sudden, I noticed my own calendar crammed with visits to the various medical offices around town.

A "robust rheumatoid" — that's what my newest doctor says I am. The good news is that I tolerate pain well. The bad news, really the danger, is that I tolerate too much and the disease could progress without our aggressively addressing it because I just put up with it.

So now I'm on more pills: four of these every Saturday, one of these the other six days, two of these every day and another one of these if the pain is too much.

No, thanks. I'll take the four and the one and the two, but I'm drawing the line at the other one. Too many side effects. Pain is better.

So my hands and feet hurt, and my elbow, too, but compared to so many friends of mine fighting really tough stuff, what's a few sore limbs? Not much, except that it hurts, physically and mentally.

Getting old beats the alternative, but not by a lot. Michael Kinsley, who recently underwent a nine-hour operation for his Parkinson's, wrote movingly about feeling like a sort of "scout" for the baby boom generation, as we face the not so pleasant realities of aging. Ultimately, what is required, I've decided, is grace and acceptance, not necessarily the strong suits of a generation that has lived with the fire of change and possibilities. But given the alternatives, what choice do we have?

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



18 Comments | Post Comment
Really enjoyed the 4-4-08 column. You hit it square on the head!!
It's a pleasure to watch you on Fox. I am a conservative, but you and Juan Williams are two liberals who are honest and don't just ,"drinkj the kool-aid".I always enjoy the argument you bring to the subject of the day.

Thanks again.

Comment: #1
Posted by: Kim McLaughlin
Fri Apr 4, 2008 3:22 PM
If you have it bad like me, it could be like a joint-painful flu for months. It hit me in 2002 and the flu is what I thought I had. Oh no, I have an assortment of arthritii. Oh well. Chronic beats fatal, like you said. I surely hope they can catch yours in time to do some healing treatment. I enjoy your perspective on things and remember you from the old Geraldo on cnbc back when America's Talking was on. Wow, a lifetime ago, eh? Take care!
Comment: #2
Posted by: Amy Winans
Fri Apr 4, 2008 6:45 PM
Susan I am 53 and starting to experience the aches and pains of aging too. I recently climbed a mountain in AZ with my son and I put that item in my bucket. In the midst of the turmoil in this world I am grabbing the positive and exeperiencing life , the best of my ability. I wanted to share with comment #1 that I do enjoy when you replace Alan Colmes. You are honest and don't make a fool of yourself like Alan does supporting the democratic party on everything. I read your articles all the time and I am an independent and don't always agree with you but enjoy your work. Please keep up the good work and never lose your soul.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Kathaleen McCausland
Sat Apr 5, 2008 5:56 AM
Susan: God bless you. I'll pray for you tonight.

Dan Johnson
Comment: #4
Posted by: Daniel E. Johnson
Sat Apr 5, 2008 7:46 PM
I enjoyed your piece on "Grace & Acceptance". Our political views are quite different, but we seem to have some physical problems in common. You don't appear to be old enough, but you do seem to understand where it hurts. I guess that I will have to go back and read some of your other pieces, and perhaps I will find some other common ground.
Best Regards
Comment: #5
Posted by: chuck
Sun Apr 6, 2008 6:25 PM
I am shocked and very sorry to hear of your recent health problems. I too am a staunch conservative, and almost never agree with Ms Estrich's opinions, but, like Michael Kiinsley, I find them well thought out and written (better than my run-on sentence :)). I admire her accomplishments over the years, and lament this tragedy in someone so young. I will keep her in my prayers
Comment: #6
Posted by: Drew Johnson
Mon Apr 7, 2008 5:49 AM
You have the best of all alternatives and that is to set one your kitchen timers by your "Confuser" and set it for 30 minutes. When the bell goes off, you get up off ---your duff and let some circulation into your legs, do a couple of squats onto your chair, lift your legs (well, one at a time..) just a few, do some quick upper body exercises with your arms, move them fast jabs, circles etc and then sit back down and resume your work. And get out and walk as often as you can! Sounds like your chair is cutting off circulation.
Before you drag yourself out of bed in the morning do some simple quick leg and arm exercises---don't need to over exert, just move your apendages and then get up.
I am no doctor but doctor's be damned! They will prescribe pills and easy outs.. Screw em! They want you to have problems for obvious reasons.. Drug companies love people who pop pills. My dad died in his 99th year and my mother in her 98th. Good genes perhaps but longivity only accounts for roughly 30% (They say) the other 70 is life style. Check with me in 26 years. If I am still around, take my advice; if I don't last another year...forget what I said.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Jacques Bakke
Mon Apr 7, 2008 10:30 AM
Susan, I got my diagnosis for RA five years ago. It's no fun but can be managed. There are a lot of treatments available. Stay in good touch with your Rheumatologist.

I want to echo something already said that you have to keep moving. Walking, stretching, any kind of exercise you can get. Good luck and sorry for your diagnosis. Keep moving.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Craig Meyer
Mon Apr 7, 2008 12:03 PM

Thank you for your column--I always enjoy your ideas and prose.

This column rang a bell with me about possible causes of peripheral neuropathy, which is, I think, what you are describing.

One cause that I am aware of, but most people and most doctors are not, is statin medication for cholesterol, such as Lipitor, or Zocor, or Crestor, and some others.

Many people take these pills for years with no problem, but ultimately develop neuropathy. It can then take another period of years to get the cause traced back to statin drugs for cholesterol.

If you are taking (or have taken) cholesterol meds, have a look at Dr. Beatrcie Golomb's web page at UC Santa Barbara.

Art Davidson

Comment: #9
Posted by: Art D
Mon Apr 7, 2008 1:30 PM
Count me among the staunch conservatives who enjoy the contributions Susan has made in the literary and punditry fields! You make me crazy, but I love ya! I don't have chronic pain (unless you count my in-laws) but I am ever so sorry for you. But, knowing you, you'll come out on top...better than before.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Michele
Mon Apr 7, 2008 3:33 PM
Dearest susan,

I too am a conservative who enjoys your contributions on Fox. Please, please please do not give in with Grace and Acceptance. You can turn this around if you fight the right way. Just look at a few books on raw food living. Look at Gabriel Cousens and his retreat in Arizona. It really works. You just have to give it a chance. Cousens is not the only one but he's a good place to start. You can easily have 30 more years of vibrant living!

Don't let the pain and the pills and the cooked food cloud your judgement. You have fought many battles and won. You can win this one too!
Comment: #11
Posted by: Rick
Tue Apr 8, 2008 1:17 AM
Susan, I'm sorry to hear about your health problems. Take care and hope your pain gets better soon. Your writing is always so interesting.
Comment: #12
Posted by: sandra clarke
Tue Apr 8, 2008 1:09 PM
Susan - check out - all about stopping the progression of R.A.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Dorothy Uhlman
Tue Apr 8, 2008 9:50 PM
Sluggish blood. The blood doesn't circulate like it should when you get older. Fish Oil Capsules speed the blood, and move whatever is stopped up...pains, tumors, etc... speedily along.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Glenda
Wed Apr 9, 2008 12:34 PM
I too am a conservative that enjoys listening to you on Fox. I also began having pain, tingling and a feeling of pins pricking my hands and fingers last summer. Then it started in my feet and has progressed through my arms, legs and at times the sides of my face. I have seen an internest, rheumatologist and now a neurologist and have gone through blood tests and neuro conduction test, which was very painful. They tell me I have mild osteo arthritis and that's about it. No one has been able to give me any other explanation so far. Susan, were you diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and if so how were you diagnosed? Would appreciate some help. It is a PAIN to get older but you're right, what's the alternative?! I am 59 yrs old
Comment: #15
Posted by: Brenda H.
Thu Apr 10, 2008 6:17 AM
I'm in agreement with Comment #13 by Rick. Don't give in with Grace and Acceptance. There are numerous things you can do. Only 35% of aging is due to genetics; the other 65% we have control over. I encourage you to read the book "The Metabolic Plan" by Stephen Cherniske, a biochemist. It explains complex concepts about how the body works in layman's language. Also check out the website (use 1252187) and listen to numerous doctors in various specialties talk about alternatives to the drug maze using some cutting-edge, highly scientific neutraceuticals that work at the cellular level. I'm 53 and been taking these products for a year now and have more energy, mental clarity and joint flexibilty than ever. They have a wonderful product specifically for arthritis/joint issues. Be proactive--look at alternatives. One drug usually leads to another--then another until it's a vicious cycle. Good luck.
Comment: #16
Posted by: veronicap
Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:59 PM
Ms Estrich,
At age fifty I also began having tingling and numbness of my hands and arms as well as pain in my wrists. Not good for a practicing dentist.
Assuming carpal tunnel but later diagnosed as arthritis, I began seeing a massage therapist, and the improvements allowed me ten more years of practice. Now at age seventy one, and retired for eleven years, I only wish I earlier had learned of the thirty or more years of Pete Egoscue's work in the area of anatomical function. Who knows....might still be in practice!
For the past three years I have worked both on my own as well as directly in a group setting with one of Egoscue's therapist in Florida. The changes which have occurred in my body have made me truely a true believer! I have no financial interest with Pete Egoscue, but when I read your column in the Miami Herald, I was hoping to be able to offer to you another direction in your quest for comfort.
Pete has a radio program on Saturdays at noon, but if interested I suggest going to EGOSCUE.COM for broadcast listings as well as other online help. I always keep his two books "The Egoscue Method of Health through Motion" and "Pain Free" nearby for ready reference.
Knowing that no approach is right for everone, you have absolutely nothing to lose and potentally much to gain by reading his books and giving his exercises a try. If not helpful in your case, you'll absolutely come away with more knowledge about posture and how your physical body functions than you've previously known or ever been told about.
If you give Pete a whirl, please send me some feedback.....wishing you well....Tom
Comment: #17
Posted by: TM Darden
Sat Apr 12, 2008 6:00 AM
I would like to second comment 16 - please check out The Road Back Foundation at A lot of people successfully treat their RA with low dose minocycline, commonly used to treat teenage acne.
Comment: #18
Posted by: Suzanne
Sat Apr 12, 2008 10:28 AM
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