Life is a series of moments. Good or bad, they shape your character and direct your dreams. Those instances construct a photograph with a precision of details that frame that one moment in time. The days that chronicled the beginning of my journey was just that, a mural that represented the change in my life’s direction.
What began as a routine trip to my primary care physician for a referral to a new back doctor, turned into a series of blood tests and a referral to a rheumatologist. Even with the tests, I was positive that the numbness in my hands and feet were just another effect of an old back injury that resulted from a car accident. I was not concerned, as my doctor did not seem too worried. As a former athlete and runner, aches and pains were like an old friend; coming to visit, but never overstaying their welcome.
As judgement day arrived, the only sound was the crinkling of the stiff white paper on the table under my fidgeting body. Luckily, I had the support of my husband as my sentence was read, Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis was the verdict. Time stood still. I had been blindsided by a disease that didn’t care that I was a wife or mother to a 4 year old little boy. Waves of resentment washed over me as I tried comprehend the words that flowed from the doctor’s mouth. The “Why Me” slowly crept into my mind, twisting and turning until it produced the tears that I so valiantly fought back with all my might. That day redefined my thoughts for the future.
The first month with my new diagnosis threw me into a realm in which I was unfamiliar. My medication count reached epic proportions (I even have to use a weekly medication organizer). I landed in the emergency room with difficulty breathing and painful muscle spasms in my rib cage. My immunosuppressants and the fact that I teach 60 students a day resulted in two rounds of Strep Throat followed by Mono. With my body overwhelmed with infection, pain ravished my body to the point of becoming bed ridden. It was not only a physical transformation that took place, but also a mental transformation. Pain wears on a person’s soul, however, I was too determined to let the pain win. Thirty-one days, multiple rounds of antibiotics and steroids later, I was finally making progress towards feeling better. I use the word “better” because “normal” still seems past-tense.
As I navigate uncharted territory known as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, one thing is certain, I will fight. I will not let chronic illness succeed in defeating my ability to live my life. Am I still angry, yes, but I’m realizing that life isn’t over, it’s just another beginning with a new outlook on life under a different set of rules.