Posted in Chronic illnesses

Cha-Cha Changes!

This post is one I have been contemplating about writing for some time. I usually start to write and it turns into another post or I am not sure whether writing it down will even allow it to make sense. What I can tell you is that nothing comes without hard work, and since my diagnoses, I have been working hard to feel better. The problem was that I have a busy life and incorporating changes in my life seemed nearly impossible, so at least I thought.

While I do always have time to go to a gym to work out, I walk everywhere. I park as far as I can from my destination and I walk. I take stairs on the days my joints don’t ache. On the days my joints do ache, I take at least one flight of steps and I never stop moving. As far as my diet, I used to think I didn’t have time to plan and to make healthier choices, but my understanding of making healthier choices was more complex than it had to be. I started drinking more water, less coffee and less soda drinks, reading labels, and picking healthier foods. I take my medications every night on cue and I take supplements, including a Vitamin B6 Stress Formula and a Fish Oil Supplement with meals. Before I purchase anything, I ask myself whether I really want to put that in my body or whether I really want my children to eat that product.

From the day I was diagnosed, I never once believed that my medications would make me feel better, and not because they would not do their jobs, but because of their side effects. When I stated to gain weight, felt swelled, and light headed, among other symptoms, I knew that I could do better. I started reading and educating myself about my conditions and my medications. Then I realized that while I did need to take my medications, I also needed to feel better. I communicated that with my doctor who told me that we could reduce my medication intake as soon as I started to feel better. From that point on, that became my goal and at my next appointment, my plan is to discuss with my doctor the steps towards stopping the medication I take for fibromyalgia.

With fibromyalgia, I have always had breaks between flares and the one and half-year flare that I had after my onset of RA symptoms and diagnosis has finally tapered off. I am sure that a lot of that has to do with changes that I have made in my life. I have stopped putting products in my body and on my skin that wreck havoc. Prior to my diagnoses, I worked out several times per week and I always believed that if I was within a normal weight range I was healthy but my diagnoses proved to me otherwise. What I have learned is that what I put in my body is so much more important than anything else I do.

The modern food industry seems to think that we need additives in our food to make food products taste better and last longer – at least that is what they tell us. There are more risks than there are benefits to food additives. Some artificial food additives have been linked with cancer, digestive problems, neurological conditions in addition to ADHD, heart disease and obesity. Did I mention RA and fibromyalgia? (I need to sigh!) Even “natural” additives may be harmful in certain quantities (table salt, for example) or because of allergic reactions in certain individuals. It makes you wonder what we unknowingly put in our bodies. While some people are lucky and can put anything in their bodies and never feel sick, some of us are not. Has it occurred to anyone that your generation is much heavier than the prior generation? It does not help that the fast food industry survived the market downturns and the recession while other major businesses failed.

Truth be told, I have changed, and not because I wanted to change but because I had to. One day, it occurred to me that I had to be better and not just for me but for my family. We have to give to get back. I made choices to be better when it came to my health, and it took all my strength, my determination, and my willpower. Each of us has to find our sense of purpose in this life. We can either choose to be happy and healthy or choose not to be. We have to make choices to be kind and good to ourselves, our bodies, and to the world. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to love yourself unconditionally in the way that you love your children, your spouse, and/or your parents and in the way that they love you.

As much as I have changed, I have not really changed at all. I am not the person who tells you that your food should come from Trader Joes, that your meats must be certified organic, or that the smoothies at Robek’s are far healthier than the fruit smoothies anywhere else. I am also not the one who works out in the gym several times a week, but I am the woman who goes to the farmer’s market to walk, to enjoy the sounds, tastes, and smells, to see the people who sell and grow locally, and support local farmers. I am the mother who makes time to make healthy meals for my family and who has learned the value of my time. I still appreciate everything life has to offer but for the first time, the world seems so much clearer than it did years ago.

I am the woman who enjoys a walk in the park with my kids and we don’t have spend a lot of money doing it. I am the woman who wishes that life were simpler and prefers a picnic in the park to a five star meal. I would rather sit on the beach enjoying the night sky than out dancing. I have not really changed that much but what has changed is my perspective on life. A year ago, it seem liked the world was rushing me past me but now it just seems like the world just does not stop to smell the roses. The way I see it is that if we do not stop to smell the roses, we will never know how truly wonderful they smell. We each owe ourselves the opportunity to smell the roses.

I never imagined being someone who makes up every morning wanting to be better, loving the sun’s rays shining though my window, enjoying the chirping of the birds, and taking the lemons that life has handed me to make the sweetest lemonade possible. Maybe it is the lesson that chronic illness teaches us. Regardless of what it may be, it our choices and the changes we make in perspective are the ones that make us happier and healthier people.


8 thoughts on “Cha-Cha Changes!

  1. You're exactly right, Lana. I think that we don't always have a choice when it comes to illness — I certainly didn't choose RA, any more than you did FMS and RA — but we CAN choose how we react to them. We CAN choose to be as healthy as possible even with chronic illness, and we can choose to do all we can to feel better even as we take a few moments each day to be mindful of the gifts life offers us.Thanks for this terrific post. I hope your weekend is a wonderful one, full of laughter and joy.-Wren

  2. So many people, myself included, neglect their diets and some don't even realize what a difference small changes can make!

  3. I agree 100% with you and the other two very wise ladies. Wren nailed my philosophy in that we have to make that big choice. I love, love, love your closing paragraph. It is a perfect reminder for ME that RA and Fibro have actually given me far more than they have been able to take away. That's one of the reasons I love your blog.

  4. You have great strength and determination. I do most of the time, but not always! Thank you for the lovely award, I shall post it soon and get to writing something, it's just been a busy time. Your blog is fab, I know I've told you this before but it really is inspiring. x

  5. I can so relate to it, Lana. About two years back I realised that if I didn't step up, my health would only get worse. I realised the limits of relief that I was going to get from my medication. I knew that a lot was needed to be changed. In order to make things better I had to start from scratch! I had to learn to take care of myself and I had to learn to be disciplined. I am the same person yet so much about me has changed. Taking the first step was hard but I am so glad that I did. As always, thanks so much the wonderful post! Love-Shweta

  6. This is a great post Lana. You're so right about controlling ourselves and how important it is to have a good communication line with your doctors. I know better but I still eat too much fast food on my work days. It's just way too convenient somedays to sleep an extra 20 minutes and grab something on the way to work. We all have a choice with RA, we can give in to it or we can fight back and enjoy life the best that we can.

  7. Wren, Thank you! Chronic illness never takes away our opportunity to choose. We always have choices and we should always choose to be better.Dee, absolutely! The other day I found myself reading the label on a bottle of cooking spray. I dumped it in the trash. One of the ingredients was propane. Instead I used olive oil. It made me sick to my stomach all day thinking I had used that before when preparing food my family ate.Jules, I think RA and FMS/Chronic Illness have taught us some valuable lessons.Cathy, thank you. The simple life comes with less worry.Reasons, thank you for your kind words. Sheweta, you are absolutely correct. Medication has limits. It is like taking diet supplements, no point if you are not exercising a healthy lifestyle. Terry, I prepare my lunch the night before or I put leftovers in a container. Sometimes, when I cannot think of anything, I pull out my George Foreman grill. I have cut down on the fast food that comes into my home. It does not help, however, that my husband works in management for a fast food chain. Being to communicate with your doctor is a long term thing so you have to find someone you can actually speak to that will listen.

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