Today feels like one of those “pivotal” days, probably because–as I will explain in a while–this day is inextricably linked with some of the days that followed my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, many years ago.
As I started my day by going to the lab to get blood drawn so that my rheumatologist could establish my new baselines, and as I finished my afternoon with another session of physical therapy, I couldn’t help but feel how “normal” all of this has become. It used to be that all of my medical appointments and all of my rest breaks would get squeezed in between all of this other things I had to do. Now I know that there are many other things that I’m still able to do, especially when I’m having a “good” day, but by and large taking care of my body and taking care of my (physical and emotional) health has definitely become something which I now perform on a full-time basis. It has, in way, become my job.
I am a year and a month away from turning 40. As I look around to many of my classmates who I graduated with from Columbia and Harvard, I see a lot of executive titles, industry leaders, and high-paying jobs. It used to be that I hated having to spend so much time on my health care, and I hated that over the past decade my career continually had to play second fiddle to my health. (I recently saw someone write something along the lines of “you know you have RA when you too sick to even telecommute!”)
Now, however, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum: I’m grateful that recent lifestyle and work changes have allowed me to prioritize taking care of myself, above everything else. Yes, my career has suffered, as has my money-making potential. But in the end, I’ve achieved something which has no price: I’ve somewhat successfully figured out (even though there continue to be many speed bumps along the way) how to live with this painful and debilitating disease.
Years ago, soon after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I was prescribed methotrexate. At the time, I certainly wasn’t ready to accept the fact that this illness with which I live was chronic. Looking back, I also don’t think I was prepared to take such a powerful drug. I wasn’t even aware of the fact that I should take omeprazole an hour before taking my stronger medications; something which is now a given, but back then I was a complete newbie. (While Superman gets abs of steel, I’m left with a stomach that seems to be made of tissue paper.)
Later this evening, I will once again start taking methotrexate. I think this is why I’m in such a pensive mood at the moment…because while the act (taking a few MTX pills) is the exact same thing that I did at the start of my RA “career,” everything else about my situation is completely different…and being able to make some of these connections between the past and the present allows me to see exactly how far I’ve come over the past years.
I’ve accepted what I have. I’ve accepted what this means. I’ve accepted this will never go away. Such simple words, words which will never be able to accurately communicate just how hard it is to reach some of these levels of acceptance.
I’ve also accepted, though, that the most important thing for me to do is to continue to take care of myself, above everything else. And as I return to taking methotrexate later today, this is exactly what I’m going to be doing.
I’m going to be taking care of myself, as best I can.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!