A nationally known wildlife and western painter, Marian Anderson for years until recently displayed her oil-on-canvas creations at various art shows, often alongside the works of contemporaries Terry Redlin and Les Kouba. In her career, she has earned an ‘artist of the year’ designation from at least three wildlife-related organizations.
About 25 years ago, a doctor diagnosed Anderson with degenerative arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis. According to a National Institutes of Health website, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and ‘a joint disease that mostly affects cartilage.’ The disease causes cartilage to break down and wear away. When bones losing this protective cartilage rub together, a person often experiences joint pain, swelling and reduced motion. Factors causing osteoarthritis include age, joint injury, being overweight, and joint stress from sports or certain repetitive jobs.
‘The first time I felt anything wrong was when I was 27,’ said 70-year-old Anderson in a telephone interview. ‘I had hip pain then, but wasn’t diagnosed with degenerative arthritis until my 40s.’
Over the last fifteen years, Anderson has had two thumb-joint replacement operations, and later, two hip replacements. ‘The thumb-joint replacements were important to my career,’ she said. ‘At one time I thought I wouldn’t be able to paint again. Every time my heart beat, I could feel a jabbing pain in my thumb joint. I couldn’t even hold a cup of coffee. And I can’t even begin to tell you the pain I had before the hip replacements.’
Now she is experiencing back and spine pain, and walks with a limp. She attributes part of her condition to having to stand hours on end over a 20-year period on hard cement floors at various art shows.
‘As an artist, I am now sitting all the time,’ she said. ‘I used to stand while painting until doing so became too physically difficult because of hip joint pain. Now I have a special easel so I can look straight ahead at the canvas while seated. At art shows I had to begin using a special (high up) chair so I could look at people straight in the eye while sitting down.’
If able to ‘do life over,’ she said she would get more exercise and not sit or stand while doing work in the same spot for days and weeks on end.