Something has Changed……..

There comes a time in everyone’s life when a discovery, a piece of news, a flash of understanding changes it forever. That is what happened to me in 2015. It has been a long 18 months, a time of adjusting, of accepting and of working on moving forward. What I have to share, in the hopes that it could help others, is about living with a chronic illness.

For months, years even, I experienced all sorts of odd symptoms seemly unrelated: low-grade fever, joint pain, unexplained cough, upset stomach and on and on. Everyone told me that we all get some aches and pains as we age and we should not over think that. What do you do? you begin to doubt yourself, you begin to think everyone is right and you are just not accepting your age or the changes in your body.

I kept trying until finally, I found a doctor willing to run tests until she found what was wrong. This is most important. A doctor that listens and is willing to go along until the reason for your symptoms is found. I have been lucky with that and are doing better because of it.

Just before Christmas 2015, I received a call from my doctor’s office. She wanted to see me that afternoon. I immediately thought: this cannot be good. It wasn’t. The tests were back and the doctor said the four words that have changed my life: You have Rheumatoid Arthritis. At the moment, I was not familiar with what all that meant. Arthritis didn’t sound good, thought. Well, it was worst than that.

RA is an autoimmune disease that presents many symptoms and causes untold damage to the human body. It is in the same group as Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease and other illnesses. It causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues in your body. There is no cure and produces painful inflammation not only in the joints, but the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, kidneys and any other part of your body.

Pain is your constant companion and fatigue is ever-present. Insomnia, brain fog, dry-eyes, forgetfulness are just a few symptoms. Left untreated can be deadly, but known treatments can slow the progress and help with symptoms. Unfortunately, they could also cause untold damage since they involved chemotherapy and steroids. There most be a balance so you need to research and read, inform yourself. Ask questions and go for second opinions. When you find a doctor that understands you, keep her!!!

Most of people suffering from RA have a hard time explaining the illness. It is difficult because most of us do not look sick, we continue our lives as normally as we can and try not to complain. Besides, not everyone is comfortable  to sharing everything with everyone.

Each day brings new challenges and we deal with them as best we can. We can make plans and cancel them unexpectedly. There is always a possibility of a flare that will take us to bed and keep us there for a while. A day of activity can render us useless for many days afterwards. So understanding is an important part of what our friends and loved ones can do for us.

Taking care of ourselves is a priority, more than ever. Becoming selfish is a most. You cannot help anyone if you are not fit to help yourself. You learn not to feel bad about standing your ground and saying no when needed. RA is something that will shape your days for the rest of your life.

Each one of us deals with this in our own way, but it is important to realize that we must have a plan. Make changes in our way of doing things, our diet, anything that needs changing. Keep active as much as we can, don’t give up on what we enjoy. Also we must accept that we might need help to do the smallest things and must learn to accept it. Finally, love yourself and take care.

 

P.S. “The beauty of life and the reality we live with” — perfectly captured in this photo of a Curaçao sunset by Neelam Melwani. Thank you!!!

 

 

Life is a Great Balancing Act!!!

IMG_3342One of my favorite quotes, and I think Dr. Seuss hit the nail on the head with this one. Of course, not everyone knows this. Most of us just go through life pretending that we know what we are doing, forgetting that balance is what makes our life so interesting.

Everything in life is a choice, everything depends on which one choice we make in every situation we face. There is no escaping that fact. Keeping that magical balance in which we know what to let go and what to hold on to is so simple, so important, so difficult.

These past weeks have been incredible hectic. I have had more than my usual share of situations that needed my immediate attention. Yes, we all have one or two of these challenges: from what to do about our mother’s care to what to say to our adult children without overstepping into their lives, from trying to keep in touch with friends we might have outgrown to keeping in touch with the ones that still mean a lot to us, from deciding what is really important in our everyday life to accepting the fact that we cannot possibly please everyone. Talking about balance!!!

Why balance is so important in life? Because it requires more than just picking one option or another. What you keep, what you decide to deal with needs as careful consideration as what you let go and what you just ignore.

In our younger years, we all tried to keep everything in our lives. We did not even consider letting go. Remember when even giving away something was a decision that we weighted carefully? I do remember. This did not only apply to material things, but to emotional, mental or behavioral issues as well. Ah, some of you will say, those were the days!!! Well, I have found out that indeed those were the days, the days of having too much in our plates and juggling too many relationships, emotional challenges, behaviors that were not good for us. Times have change, at least for me they have.

IMG_3333With age and maturity, I have begun to see all aspects of my life in a way that is centered on ME. This is my time. Life has giving me the chance to act as I want, to let go of what I don’t need, to keep what makes me happy, whole and centered. It’s a feeling that makes me smile sometimes and has caused me to change and acquire a new assertiveness.

In June of last year, I participated in a de-cluttering challenge. Not that I needed the idea, but it was pleasant to have company. I have done his before, many times, but it is a never-ending task. It was wonderful to have some company this time around. Letting go of all those material things left space in my home for what I really love and wanted to stay in my life. With less clutter, I appreciate what I kept more.  It has been a wonderful experience. There was another benefit, somehow the challenge is still going. The group is still putting out ideas, supporting each other’s efforts, accepting new members. Why?

Here is the simple answer. Once we let go of material things, we started letting go of emotional baggage, behavioral issues and preconceived ideas. This was the hardest part, but the most rewarding. This was when our change really started and we learned an important lesson. Life becomes simpler and more rewarding, we determine our own expectations without society or family pressure. Liberating. Of course, as with any de-cluttering process, this is a never-ending task.

Any change we introduce in our lives comes with a measure of guilt. This challenge was not an exception. The ever-present feeling that we should be paying attention to everyone around us and if we are not, then we are being selfish: guilt. For most of us women, it’s very hard to shake this feeling, but we must remember that it’s in the challenge of keeping things balanced in our lives, that we achieve a new kind of happiness. Believe it or not, we would also achieve a new kind of serenity. Everyone who knows me, must be smiling by now. I do not radiate serenity, usually, but I am learning fast. Trust me!!!

Life is a great balancing act and, finally, I have arrived at that place where I can manage without feeling guilty……most of the time!!!!! After all, this is a work in progress.

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