Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Value of Hope

"There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow." ~ Orison Swett Marden

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of hope.

That can be a bit of a dangerous thing when you live with a chronic illness that has no cure, and very little in the way of successful treatment.


But, I have a trifecta of hope happening in my life right now; a process that started sometime in April. This is ironic actually as Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal....a reawakening, if you will.

My trifecta is a combination of three things that I am doing to try and help alleviate my autoimmune symptoms, caused by Sjögren's syndrome, and therefore increase the quality of my life. I have to be honest, my quality of life was truly beginning to take a nosedive prior to April and after about a year of this happening, it was time for some more drastic measure to be taken, both on my part and the part of my medical team.


The first part of this trifecta was starting a new biologic medication called Orencia (abatacept) on April 6th. It is not a medication for Sjögren's specifically, but rather one often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. However, there has been some research published and patient reports that Orencia has helped some patients with Sjögren's syndrome, especially the symptoms of joint pain and fatigue.

The second part is that I am in the middle of (literally) an eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, a program that was founded at UMASS Medical Center in Worcester, MA and since its induction, has helped thousands of patients with a variety of chronic conditions. This is something I have been considering doing for about a year or so and after the third person suggested it to me, I did my research and decided to go for it.

The third is a dramatic change in my diet, which started May 23rd. I embarked on a twelve day whole food, plant based detox cleanse with the sole purpose of trying to settle down my physical symptoms. That will end in a few days and I don't know exactly where I will go from there, but I imagine that I will continue some version of it since I have already seen benefits.

I did not plan on doing all three of these healing and potentially life-changing things at the same time and to be honest, I would never have planned it this way. I have to travel to Boston for the Orencia infusions, the MBSR class takes three hours on Thursdays, as well as at least an hour a day of "homework" and the diet change? Of Lordy, between the shopping and cooking, that has become VERY time consuming for me. But, I did not control the schedule of when all three happened so I jumped in, trusting that God knew what he is doing.

All three of these things bring a lot of hope to the table for me, something I haven't had a whole heck of a lot of recently. I know for certain that the dietary changes will help me and the MBSR class cannot hurt me, and my guess is I will experience some benefits from that as well. The Orencia is a crap shoot at best, however I have already experienced some positive effects from it. The real question for me is how much will these life changes help my physical symptoms, both individually and collectively? What if the changes help me so much that I am able to gain most, if not all, of my previous functioning back?

I know, that's a tall order and honestly, any improvement would be welcome.

But, I was scared.

I was scared to hope.

Why?

Because I have been down that road before. You cannot even imagine (well, some of you can) how difficult it can be to put so much hope into something and not have it work out or have it work out just for a brief time before it is snatched away. And what you are left with is pain, more medical appointments, and disappointment. It can be challenging and heartbreaking all at the same time.

But what is the alternative? Not trying? Not taking advantage of the possibilities that are being offered to you? For me, that is not an option. So onward I went, starting with that first infusion in April.

The problem was, even though I was trying, I kept telling myself over and over that I wasn't going to get my hopes up...not about the Orencia, or the class, or the dietary changes...none of it.

It didn't take long though for me to realize that my self-defeating attitude regarding all of this was not exactly helpful. I then found a journal I kept during my Manifestation Workshop at Kripalu in February. The cover said, "Hope anchors the soul"" and I then saw something I had written. It was so powerful.

"I want to manifest good health and wellness."

I WANT TO MANIFEST GOOD HEALTH AND WELLNESS!

For me, part of manifesting good health and wellness HAS to be having hope. Hope drives me. It is hope that pushes me to spend a whole day venturing into Boston for my Orencia treatment. It is the thing that help drive me through the frustration of learning how to meditate with my MBSR class. Hope is the motivation I need, when I am tired and in pain, to spend two hours in the kitchen prepping and cooking wholesome, nutritious meals.

Hope is everything.

Now, I have opened up my heart and allowed myself to hope, for many things: good health, a less disabling future, and a body that can get me through the day. Maybe I will get some of this, none of it, maybe all of it, who knows. What I do know is that throughout this ongoing process of healing, I will not give up the thought that tomorrow will be better.


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