You may know actress Jane Kaczmarek for her starring roles on FOX’s Malcolm in the Middle and Lifetime Network original movie Reviving Ophelia. But you may not be aware that behind the scenes, Kaczmarek has had a painful struggle with osteoarthritis, a condition that affects one in five Americans and is the leading cause of disability in this country. She had a hip replacement in 2004 and is now sharing her knowledge and experience with others. SheKnows caught up with her recently to find out more about osteoarthritis and how best to cope with the condition.
SheKnows: What was your experience like with osteoarthritis?
Jane Kaczmarek: I didn’t want to accept that my physical symptoms, such as groin pain and trouble sleeping, were because of osteoarthritis in my hip. I continued to make excuses, like I was tired. I would even move my car from one end of the mall to the other just to avoid having to do that long walk. When I woke up in the morning I would put everything I thought I needed for the day in a bag and take it downstairs with me, so I wouldn’t have to climb the steps again until it was time to go to sleep. When I was taping Malcolm in the Middle I even remember being on set and strategizing how I would move around, scoping out doorknobs and countertops to lean on. Unfortunately, this went on for two years before I decided to reach out to an orthopaedic surgeon to discuss my treatment options.
Consider joint replacement
SheKnows: How has life been different since you’ve had your hip replacement?
Jane Kaczmarek: I had my left hip replaced in 2004. After years of experiencing severe hip pain and walking with a limp, I couldn’t believe how great I felt. Following physical therapy, I was back to the way I felt before the pain began. I can honestly say this was one of the best decisions I ever made. So when my right hip started causing me pain a couple years later, I didn’t wait. I went right to my orthopaedic surgeon and soon after had replacement surgery on my right hip. Now, I’m taking on new acting roles, like Candy on the NBC comedy series Whitney and having a more active life with my kids.
SheKnows: What kinds of things can you do now that you couldn’t do pre-operation/rehabilitation?
Jane Kaczmarek: Before I had my left hip replaced, I recall having to turn down a movie offer because the pain was so bad and I just couldn’t wait a day longer to have the surgery. In fact, the pain had gotten so awful that I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t spend the kind of active time I wanted to with my kids. My quality of life had really diminished both at home and at work. Now that I have had both of my hips replaced, I am back to chasing my kids around the house, getting outside and riding bikes with them and also taking on new acting roles.
Ditching the stigma
SheKnows: Do you think there is a stigma associated with joint replacement?
Jane Kaczmarek: I hope not, because it has given me my mobility, my quality of life and my career back. Joint replacement was a great decision for me. If your surgeon has recommended joint replacement and you are unsure about the procedure, it’s important to consider what you’re giving up by not having the surgery. For me, it took years to decide to talk to an orthopedic surgeon about my pain and to take action. I was one of those people who continued to convince myself that I just had to deal with the pain, and I did things differently because my hip hurt too much. But since I have had my hip replacement surgeries, I’m back to the person I want to be, doing the things I love, so it’s important to talk with a doctor.
Advice for those newly diagnosed
SheKnows: What advice do you have for someone who is newly diagnosed with osteoarthritis?
Jane Kaczmarek: Take care of yourself! As my surgeon explained to me, osteoarthritis is a disease that just keeps getting worse over time. My experiences with hip pain have taught me that it’s important to listen to your body, and when the pain is taking control of your life, take care of the problem. When I needed to have my first hip replaced, I waited too long and paid the price. I was missing out on things at home and at work. Yes, I was nervous about the recovery time, but I continued with my physical therapy program and soon was back to work. It’s so important not to make excuses for your health. As a mom, we tend to put everyone else’s needs in front of our own, but it’s so important to take care of yourself. So for me, I encourage anyone who suffers joint pain to talk to an orthopedic surgeon to see what treatment options may be right for you! You can also visit the Anatomy of Movement Experience campaign to learn more about the impact osteoarthritis can have on joint health.
You can catch Kaczmarek on the NBC comedy series Whitney, which is now airing on Thursday nights after The Office.