When Barbara Ann Porte was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, or OA, in her hands in 2010, she thought of two things: an echidna and her mother. Maybe that’s just the way a writer’s mind works, for Porte, 66, is the award-winning author of 30 books for children and young adults.

Instead of focusing on the chronic illness, she created a word picture of it – an echidna is a porcupine-like mammal – and remembered that whenever she was ill as a child, her mother’s care felt like the best medicine.

She wove these themes into a poem, which also explores the frustration of her diagnosis – that there is no cure, and that she could not have prevented her OA. “I did wonder,” Barbara says, “because I was a librarian for many years and am a writer, and I use my hands a lot.”

Because her arthritis is in the joints where her thumbs connect with her wrists, holding a pen, opening jars, flossing her teeth and putting up her hair are all little things that hurt, she says. But she doesn’t dwell on the pain and doesn’t want to be considered “a patient.”

“I’m not sick and I don’t have a severe case of arthritis. I want to continue my writing and keep my life as it was as much as possible,” she says. Indeed, the prolific Porte just completed work on Shanghai Affair, a novella for adults.