Jane Kaczmarek, a seven-time Emmy Award nominee and three-time Golden Globe Awards nominee for her role as Lois, the mother on the FOX television series “Malcolm in the Middle” appeared to be sailing through life.
Behind the scenes, Kaczmarek, the mom to Frances, 15, George, 12, Mary Louisa, 9, with ex-husband, actor Bradley Whitford, says she barely hobbled through her mid- and late-forties because she struggled with severe osteoarthritis in her hip, the most common form of arthritis that occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time.
“It was robbing me of my life because I was in so much pain.”
Kaczmarek’s lifestyle demands 10 to 12 hours a day on her feet. And she knew she had to break down and get help when years of battling severe hip pain caused her to pass on a big movie offer.
After consulting with an orthopaedic surgeon to understand her treatment options, Kaczmarek, then 47, had her left hip replaced in 2004, the day after “Malcolm in the Middle” finished filming for the season. In 2006 when Kaczmarek started to experience similar pain in her other hip, she didn’t wait to talk to her surgeon about surgery. She had her right hip replaced in 2006 and hasn’t looked back since.
“The surgeries gave me my life back,” she says.
She says after years of experiencing severe hip pain and walking with a limp, she’s back to the way she felt before the pain began. “Hip replacement surgery was one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m pain free and feeling great.”
Osteoarthritis runs in the family. Kaczmarek’s mother had her hip replaced at age 84.
“My parents are both avid gardeners and it was killing mom to sit on the sidelines because the pain was too great for her to be on her knees digging in the dirt,” she says. “Now she’s able to do the things she loves to do.”
Here’s a look at how hip pain was taking over Kaczmarek’s life.
The Problem: Tossing and turning all night
Kaczmarek’s pain in her left hip started 9 years ago when she was pregnant with her third child. Because of her swelling belly, she didn’t connect her groin pain and difficulty sleeping with osteoarthritis in her left hip. She thought it was a symptom of pregnancy.
“I gained 70 pounds with each pregnancy so I thought that was the cause of the pain. Then I continued to make excuses for the pain even after I had my daughter,” she says.
Jane says the pain she experienced was “bone grinding pain” that prevented her from sleeping. “My cartilage was worn down so the pain was pretty constant all through the night.”
The Solution: A Sound Night’s Sleep
Kaczmarek says she placed pillows around her hip as cushions to ease her pain and get a good night’s sleep. That provided some relief, but it was a hip replacement that ultimately led to Kaczmarek slipping off to sleepytown. And even though it took nearly 6 weeks before she felt somewhat like her ‘old self’ Kaczmarek says she slept better in the hospital after having surgery than she had in the months leading up to the surgery.
The problem: Spending a Small Fortune on Pain Relievers
Kaczmarek says she was taking a lot of over-the-counter pain relievers to mask her pain and make it through a day. “I was taking about 20 Advil a day.”
“I was hobbling around through my late 40s and my life was passing me by. I could barely walk even taking as much over-the-counter pain relievers as possible.
The Solution: Spending Time on Herself
“I’m amazed I let my pain get as bad as it did, but being busy with a family, a full-time job, etc. colored my judgment,” she says. “I should have paid more attention to myself because to keep things running, you need to take a few weeks out to take care of yourself.”
Once she realized that she was ignoring herself, Kaczmarek says a whole new world opened up to her. She realized that she was selling herself short trying to dull the pain instead of putting a stop to it. “That’s when I went to the doctor to explore options beyond over-the-counter pain relievers,” she says.
Kaczmarek encourages anyone in pain to have symptoms checked out sooner, rather than later. “You can avoid a lot of pain and the need to stock up on ibuprofen.”
The problem: Walking With Pain
“I couldn’t walk the length of the mall or go up and down the stairs in my home more than once a day,” says Kaczmarek. “The thought of climbing the stairs seemed like torture.”
Her increasing immobility meant Kaczmarek was facing a life on the sidelines. She couldn’t attend get-togethers with friends because walking was so painful.
The Solution: Get Creative With Crutches
To avoid running up and down the stairs, before her surgery, Kaczmarek used to plan out her day in advance. “When I woke up in the morning I put everything I needed for the day ahead in a bag and took it downstairs with me so I wouldn’t have to climb the steps again until bedtime. I took everything I would need like clothes, personal items, etc.”
To be able to hit the mall, instead of walking from one end to another, she says she used to move her car from one end of the mall to the other to avoid the long walk.
And to participate in lunches with girlfriends or the moms of her children’s friends, Kaczmarek says she always looked around the room for a little help. “I would walk in a room and look to see where a doorknob, table, etc. was that I could lean on if I needed.”
Signs your hip is on the fritz
Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Some common signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis include:
Pain. Your hip may hurt during or after movement like walking, biking or even moving your leg to reposition yourself on the couch or in bed.
Tenderness. Your hip may feel tender when you apply light pressure to it.
Stiffness. Your hip may be stiff, especially when you wake up in the morning or after a period of inactivity.
Loss of flexibility. You may not be able to move your leg through its full range of motion.
Grating sensation. You may hear or feel a grating sensation in your hip when you walk or move your leg.