Embracing Life With Chronic Illness

There is a big difference between embracing life and merely going through the motions. One month after my first book came out, I could no longer hide what was happening to my body.

The symptoms had gotten progressively worse since the release of my book, and were, most likely, a trauma response in my body from the emotions associated with publically releasing the content of my book. Big D, the love of my life and my #1 fan convinced me to go to the doctor and not give up until I had answers. I listened.

Armed with a laundry list of symptoms that included joint pain, morning stiffness, dizziness, balance issues, headaches, sleep challenges, fatigue, ringing in my ears, hot flashes and more, I met with my primary care doctor. She then referred me to a couple of specialists.

When the initial tests came back normal, the specialists referred me to other specialists. Being committed to embracing life, I pushed on. By early October, my symptoms exploded. The morning joint pain and stiffness had spread to my feet, my hips, my elbows, wrists, ankles, and back. And it was staying with me throughout the day. Gone were the afternoons free from pain and evenings where a night out meant dancing until the early morning hours. My headaches were becoming more frequent and intensely painful, and still, there were no answers.

To an outsider, I looked healthy. I wasn’t, and as much as I wanted to be embracing life, I was going through the motions by now. After numerous tests, MRIs, X-Rays, CT scans, and more blood draws than I can count, more than four months later, we finally had some answers.

I needed shoulder surgery. My clavicle was bone-on-bone, and I had a fractured right first rib, although no one could explain how the fracture in this location could have possibly happened.

And there was more. When Big D and I initially talked about figuring out what was wrong with my health, I didn’t want to consider worst-case scenarios. Something without a cure, something that could impact the rest of my life or God forbid, something that could shorten my life.

Everyone always worries about the cancer diagnosis. Having watched both of my now deceased parents deal with cancer; it was something I had thought about many times. And as such, I had decided against chemotherapy as a treatment, should I ever find myself with that dreaded diagnosis.

Of course, I realize it’s easy to make a decision when you don’t have to. It’s much more challenging to make the decision when you’re facing a life-altering diagnosis.

I don’t have cancer, and I am grateful. My new diagnosis, however, forced me to face the same decision, as chemotherapeutic drugs are the recommended treatment for my condition. Did. Not. See. That. Coming.

I have Rheumatoid Disease (RD). You’ve probably heard it called Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), which is now the commonly used diagnostic term. It’s unfortunate since arthritis is only one of many complications of this disease. RD/RA is a systemic autoimmune disease; meaning it impacts all the bodily systems from organs to joints, and there is no cure.

I’m still learning about the disease and what it will mean for me. It’s scary and makes me sad, but I’m not alone. Millions, like me, maybe you, too, are dealing with chronic pain and more while silently living with this invisible disease.

As to my decision on treating my disease with the recommended chemotherapeutic drugs. Interesting how things change when the decision isn’t a hypothetical situation.

I’ve decided to try chemo.

This post was previously published on Annpeck.com and is republished here with permission from the author.

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