There is a big difference between embracing life and simply going through the motions. One month after my first book came out, I could no longer hide what was happening to my body. The symptoms had gotten progressively worse since the release of my book.
(I’m convinced there is a connection, but I’ll save that for a future post.) Big D, the love of my life and my #1 fan, convinced me to go to the doctor and not give up until I had answers.
Do not give up!
Armed with a laundry list of symptoms that included joint pain, morning stiffness, dizziness, balance issues, headaches, sleep challenges, fatigue, ringing in my ears, hot flashes and more, I met with my primary care doctor who referred me to multiple specialists.
And when the initial tests came back normal, the specialists referred me to other specialists. Being committed to embracing life, I pushed on. By early October, my symptoms exploded. The morning joint pain and stiffness had spread to my feet, my hips, my elbows, wrists, ankles, and back. And it was staying with me throughout the day. Gone were the afternoons free from pain and evenings where a night out meant dancing until the early morning hours. My headaches were becoming more frequent and intensely painful, and still, there were no answers.
To an outsider, I look healthy.
I wasn't and as much as I wanted to be embracing life, I was just going through the motions by now. After numerous tests, MRIs, X-Rays, CT scans, and more blood draws than I can count, more than four months later we finally had some answers. I needed shoulder surgery, my clavicle was bone-on-bone, and I had a fractured right first rib, although no one could explain how the fracture in this location could have possibly happened.
And there was more. A lot more.
When Big D and I initially talked about figuring out what was wrong with my health, I didn't want to consider it could be something without a cure, something that could impact the rest of my life, or God forbid, something that could shorten my life; but that is precisely what it is.
Everyone always worries about the Cancer diagnosis, and having watched both of my now deceased parents deal with cancer; it was something I had thought about many times. And since I'm adopted, and not biologically connected to my parents, my thoughts focused on treatment options should I find myself with a cancer diagnosis. I decided against chemotherapy as a treatment.
Of course, I realize it's easy to make a decision when you don't have to and much more challenging to make the decision when you're facing a diagnosis.
I don't have cancer, and I am grateful.
My new diagnosis, however, forced me to face the same decision, as chemotherapeutic drugs are the recommended treatment for my condition.
Did. Not. See. That. Coming.
I have Rheumatoid Disease (RD). You've probably heard it called Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), which is now the commonly used diagnostic term. It's unfortunate since arthritis is only one of many complications of this disease. RD/RA is an autoimmune disease that is systemic; meaning it impacts all the bodily systems from organs to joints and there is no cure.
I'm still learning about the disease and what it will mean for me. It’s scary and makes me sad, but I’m not alone. Millions, like me, maybe you, too, are dealing with chronic pain and more while silently living with this invisible disease.
Embracing life with chronic illness.
I've decided to share my journey here, with all of you. If there's one thing I've learned, it's the value of community. We all need to know we're not alone, we're not the only one, and we're not crazy either.
As to my decision on treating my disease with the recommended chemotherapeutic drugs… Interesting how things change when the decision is not based on a hypothetical situation.
I've decided to try the drugs.
I'd be so appreciative if you could send a little light and love my way.
How do you embrace life with chronic illness?