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No more pain
Jill Miller

​While she still feels the effects of osteoarthritis, long-time weightlifter Jill Miller continues to train and compete.

Osteoarthritis afflicts one in six Canadians – and the painful disease is only going to affect more people in the future. Scientists at the Buchan Arthritis Research Centre at Krembil Research Institute are hoping to stop it before it starts

When Jill Miller competed at the Pan American Masters Weightlifting Championships in Orlando, Fla., in late May 2019, hoisting an 88-lb barbell over her five-foot-two-inch frame, people watching would never have guessed she was due in a Toronto operating room five weeks later, for surgery on her arthritic right knee. Miller, who is 68 years old, has a high pain threshold. She could weather the tightness in the joint, but she also describes sudden pangs of “a knife-like pain.” During the operation to repair her meniscus – the C-shaped disk of cartilage that cushions the knee and that breaks down in arthritis – her surgeon removed seven floating fragments of bone, adding up to some 13.5 centimetres. These fragments would get stuck in her joint, locking it. “A lot of the time it wouldn’t hurt,” Miller recalls. “But when one of those pieces of bone shifted, eeoowww!”

And that was the good knee. Diagnosed with arthritis in 2012, Miller had the same surgery on her left knee last year – on top of cortisone shots, an injection of stem cells taken from her lumbar area and platelet-rich plasma to trigger healing. She shouldn't even have been walking, her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Darrell Ogilvie-Harris, at Toronto Western Hospital, told her. Four days after her July surgery, she was off the anti-inflammation drugs. Within a couple of weeks, she had returned to her gym in Collingwood, Ont., where she would gradually work up to her usual level. Walking long distances is challenging, and it still hurts to travel up and down stairs, but in late July she was in Peru, refereeing a weightlifting championship. "If I wasn't a bit of a Pollyanna," Miller admits, "I couldn't do any of this. I wake up in the morning and it hurts."