Over the past week and a half (don’t forget, I’ve only been home two weeks since spending three months in the U.S.), I’ve received more than my fair share of unsettling news. (Or, as I like to put it, I became a triple crown winner in the trifecta of chronic illness!)
First, I received new that the first appeal for my disability benefits was denied. As of today, it’s officially been 1,076 days since I started this process.
Then, a few days later I found out that the lump in my stomach was a hernia, which needs to be surgically repaired. I don’t have health insurance, which means that I’m going to have to pay everything out of pocket. (And just when I’ve saved up enough money for an arthroscopic knee cleaning, this comes along…)
And Friday afternoon when I picked up seven pages of lab results, I immediately noticed that my liver enzymes were elevated, a result of the methotrexate pills that I have been taking for a little under half a year. (I’ve previously had similar hepatotoxicity while taking Arava.)
As I received each piece of subsequent news over the past 10 days, my reaction was one of “you’ve got to be kidding me”…but as with some many other aspects of living with a serious chronic illness, I knew that none of this was a joke.
In the past, each one of these items alone would have been sufficient to drive me into a downward spiral of depression, which would take weeks to recover from; all three of them together would have made me feel like my life was in complete shambles, and would have taken me months(if not years!) to bounce back from.
So as I sat there Friday evening thinking about all of these new challenges on my horizon, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I thought to myself that if there were ever a time to feel sorry for myself, that this would be it. If ever there were a time to just stop trying to move forward and throw up my arms in despair, a time to sulk in bed and not look forward to the following day, that such a time would be now.
Something happened that night, though, which pleasantly surprised me. Just as I was giving myself permission to feel sad, angry, and depressed, I found myself saying:
I don’t want to!
I don’t want to get stuck in sadness, and stop moving forward. I don’t want to avoid the problems in front of me, and allow them to grow even bigger. I don’t want to spend a minute feeling down, when I can instead continue to laugh, and to be happy.
So I immediately reached out for help, and asked friends and family for words of encouragement. I started researching what I needed to do, in order to work through each one of the issues on my plate. I gave myself the weekend to rest, knowing that the upcoming week would be more hectic than usual…and I told myself that working through so many simultaneous challenges would only make me stronger, and would only make me better prepared to deal with any future challenges which life, or my chronic illness, might decide to present down the road.
Tomorrow, I’m going to my local embassy to file the necessary paperwork to continue with the appeals process for my disability benefits.
Wednesday, I’m tapering down my weekly dose of methotrexate, as my rheumatologist and I discussed this afternoon.
And on Thursday, I’m going to to the hospital for my hernia repair surgery. The doctor want to keep me a little longer than usual–until Sunday–in order to ensure that there are no complications in my recovery, taking into account that I live with rheumatoid arthritis and walk with crutches on a good day.
Life may sometimes thrown bigger challenges in our path that we might think we’re prepared for–sometimes even multiple challenges at the same time–but the secret to working through them remains unchanged: one minute at a time, one hour at a time, and one day at a time.
And if our progress slows down a little, that’s okay. What matter most, is that we keep moving forward!
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!