I had no intention of doing another blog entry this week; especially because I have other writing that I wanted to do. However it’s been one of those days where I need to write what’s first and foremost in my head and right now, that is the subject of perseverance.
I have had some significant medication changes lately for my autoimmune disorder. We can call it Sjogren’s Disease but the reality is, I don’t think anyone is particularly convinced that this disease is the sole diagnosis, even my doctor. That is the problem with autoimmune disorders; there are about eighty of them and accurate diagnosis for many of them is a joke at best. Many of us struggle for years, if not a whole lifetime switching from one diagnosis to another; oftentimes running around with several diagnoses at once. I am pretty sure that our rheumatologists get just as frustrated sometimes as we do with the merry-go-round of uncertainty and frustration, but the reality is that as patients, we live with it every single day of our lives-the uncertainty and the frustration.
Today was a particularly frustrating day because we had to come up with a new plan for my medications. The autoimmune stuff and meds have been a three ring circus (more so than usual) since the end of June. I think that typically, I handle this whole health issue thing pretty well and with a decent amount of dignity, but today was one of those days that I was just pretty damn sick of it. Sick of dealing with being poked, prodded, and asked the same questions over and over. Sick of explaining to people why I am not back at work. Sick of worrying and wondering which toxic medication will do me in first. I know it sounds like one giant bitch fest but it really wasn’t. I was just wishing for a day where my health issues did not play into my life at all.
Then as I was driving home, I was thinking about how my health was right before I started seeing this particular rheumatologist in December of 2008. At that point, I was so freaking sick and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. I really thought I was going to die. I was scared because I was getting sicker. I had terrible difficulty breathing, had lost some feeling in my feet from nerve involvement, and pain so bad that at points, if someone had offered me a gun, I probably would have taken it. Three rheumatologists told me I did not have an autoimmune related disorder and two primary care doctors threw their hands up in dismay. I saw more specialists than I could count. There were times I could not even take care of myself. On more than one occasion, I was told maybe it was in my head. I was even told that all I needed was a vacation. A vacation… really? How would you suggest I get myself there since I can’t stay out of the hospital??
Yes, today I know I am still not in an optimal place physically but the reality is: I am in a MUCH better place than I was in December 2008. The reason: I persevered. I researched, asked a lot of questions, did not take “I don’t know” for an answer. In desperation, I found a pain specialist who tried me on steroids for five days and we saw a miraculous transformation occur, most likely indicating an autoimmune disorder. Yet three other rheumatologists could not be bothered to try this before he did. So I found a rheumatologist (who was my fourth and current one) who knew what the hell he was doing and took me seriously.
According to Merriam-Webster, to persevere is defined as: to persist in or remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement. I have a purpose: I’m going to kick this thing’s ass. Seriously. I was having a conversation with a friend several months ago about my health. My friend had the best of intentions, but she implied that I may have to accept that this is as good as it’s going to get. I had to disagree. Have I accepted that I have a chronic illness that will affect me the rest of my life? Yes…got that one loud and clear; although the acceptance thing did take some time. Have I accepted that I will probably never work in a hospital as a pediatric nurse in the capacity I worked before? Yeap, got that one loud and clear also. What I am not going to accept is that the way my body is functioning now is as good as it gets. Because once you do that, you’ve given up. You can have realistic expectations of yourself and adjust some of your life accordingly, but you never give up hope, never stop researching, never stop challenging your doctors, and never stop pushing yourself further than you thought you could go.
So as I was getting ready for bed tonight, I thought about how the past few months have just been obstacles in this journey towards better health. I realized that in the scheme of this fight, this doctor’s appointment today was not a big deal. I have persevered through much worse. I’m going to continue to fight the fight and not give up hope that at some point, this whole autoimmune thing will be under control on a regular basis. I will persist, hope and persevere. I will not accept any less.