Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back And Looking Forward

I had a moment yesterday. Like one of those moments (actually, several moments) where you realize something important. I was lying on an exam table, having an abdominal ultrasound done. It wasn't a big deal, minus the fact that the tech was specifically looking for my gallbladder and that little booger was tough to find. I go for ultrasounds every several months to check a previously suspicious growth that is attached to the gallbladder.

I first found out about this growth in November 2012 when I was hospitalized with dehydration, vomiting, and stomach pain. It ended up that the issue causing my symptoms was an esophageal motility disorder, mostly likely related to Sjögren's. I also had severe GERD. When they did a bunch of tests to initially find out what was going on, a surgeon appeared in my hospital room telling me that by the way, they also found this thing on my gallbladder that shouldn't be there and although gallbladder cancer is very rare, we might have to consider surgery to remove the entire gallbladder.

More tests and investigation ensued and the end result was that this "thing" had showed up on a CT scan three years prior. I don't know if the doctor at the time read the report, but I was never told about it. Yes, you have to love our health care system. But truly, it was good news because by comparing the scans, it was obvious that the growth did not change at all in size or shape during those three years. That made it highly unlikely that this was a cancer of any sorts because to be frank, I would probably be dead. After months of discussion and more scans, it was decided that this was likely something I was born with and since I had no specific gallbladder symptoms, we would just monitor the growth.

At this point, I feel that the continued scans are a bit overkill, but I respect this particular specialist and trust his judgment. I have to tell you though, it was a horrible time for me. I was dealing with the symptoms at hand and this gallbladder scare on top of it. My mother-in-law was very sick at the time and honestly, I don't even know how my husband and I got through it all.

This brings me back to the exam table yesterday. The tech made a comment about how much easier it was for her because I was good at taking very deep breaths. She jokingly said that I must have a lot of experience doing so.

True enough.

Then this realization hit me. I have had significantly fewer medical appointments over the past few months and the impact of that has been huge. Overall, I am much calmer about my health issues. My last big crisis was over the summer with bladder issues, but things have been quieter since September. I am very well aware of the fact that this is when I started prednisone again, but I don't think the reason is that important. Although I continue to struggle every day with different Sjögren's related issues that significantly impact my life, I am not in crisis mode. Looking back over the past several years, there have been weeks and months where crisis mode has been the norm around here. I do not exaggerate when I say that I have had weeks that have included anywhere from seven-twelve medical appointments in one week. How do we live like that? How do we get through each of those dramatic and tedious weeks to the other side? One step and one day at a time.

So as my day continued yesterday and through this morning, I reflected on all of this. Sjögren's is so unpredictable. I could write this today and be in the hospital by the weekend with some unsuspecting complication. But, I have gotten better about not worrying when the next medical crisis will hit and rather, I have tried to fully live the day I have in front of me.

Taking one day at a time has served me well this year. To say that 2013 was a big year for me would be an understatement. I got married (with a two day wedding!), traveled to Disney for our honeymoon, conquered my fear of heights with parasailing, ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and published my first book. I reevaluated a lot of my relationships. I made new friends and lost some friends as well. I have learned a lot about myself and about other people. I have rejoiced. I have mourned.

That's a lot. And I did some of this in between medical crises, and sometimes even during them. I think that is why I no longer make New Year's resolutions: my life is a constant resolution. To be healthier, stronger, more relaxed, more patient, and more tolerant. I consistently work on finding ways to be a better and stronger person. Sometimes it means learning how to say no. Sometimes it means saying yes. This year in particular, it has meant setting boundaries with other people and learning that no matter who it is (i.e. not just my partner), we all deserve to be treated with respect, kindness, and love. Becoming a stronger person this year has meant that I have learned to respect where someone else is at, to forgive, and to truly move on. Most importantly, I have continued to just be myself and not worry about what people think of that.

So while I am I am excited to see what the journey of 2014 is going to look like, I will miss 2013. I am grateful for all the beautiful moments and the growth that I have experienced. However I must say that part of me is looking forward to not having so many big events and instead, just savoring the little pleasures and joys of each day.

One day at a time.


Do you make New Year's resolutions and have you made any for 2014?