Living with two chronic diseases, I know about sacrificing. Since chronic illness came into my life, I have had to make sacrifices. I wanted to go to law school and I had to give that dream up. In addition, I had to give up a high paying job. I used to love to spend time outdoors but I can’t participate in a lot of activities that involving being outdoors. I also don’t have a lot of energy and I live with pain. I have stopped participating in family functions and school activities that I would have otherwise participated in before chronic illness. I had to change jobs because my old job was stressful and I have had to make changes my lifestyle and diet. These types of sacrifices I can accept. There are other sacrifices I am not willing to make.
First and foremost, I won’t sacrifice who I am. I know that people rely on me to be there for them. If that means giving up time for the outside world, that is fine with mine. I have stopped caring what other mothers think of me because I am unable to participate in school functions or what relatives think of because I am unable to attend family events and in the past, I used to care what people thought, that is no longer a worry of mine. I refuse to put other people’s needs (and opinions) ahead of my family and mine’s unless it is absolutely necessary. I know who I am and chronic illness won’t change that. If I can help, I will but I am not going to go out of my way to please others when I cannot. However, I am not willing to sacrifice myself or my health to do that. Not being able to do that doesn’t change who I am.
Second, I won’t sacrifice my children. I have two very active boys who need me to be their mother, with or without chronic illness. I have to work to keep a roof over their heads but I work 8 to 5. The minute I leave the office, it is about them and me. When they are tucked away in beds, I will log on to my advocacy sites and other social media sites but outside of this, I am their mother, first and foremost. I continually try to pace myself so I am able to spend time with them and I take time to rest so I don’t become stressed.
Third, I won’t sacrifice my family – that includes my mother and my siblings. They come next after my children and my integrity. That is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. My mother and my sisters are my closest friends and before I make a commitment to anyone else, after my kids, they come next. If mom needs my help with something, I do my best to accommodate her or a sibling should they ask for help and I am available.
Last, I won’t sacrifice my faith in God. I won’t let chronic illness keeping me from believing in God even when my prayers aren’t always answered. I used to wonder why someone like me who constantly goes out of their way for people would have my life put on hold because of chronic illness. I have struggled with my faith for a long time and had many tumbles and near misses along the way but I am finally at point where I know that God is my friend. I am grateful to have that. I remember seeing a bumper sticker a while back that said: “Those who plan to seek God in the 11th hour die at 10:30.” I don’t want to die at 10:30 without having had a good relationship with God.
In the first year following my diagnoses, I didn’t realize where I would be three years later and the positive outcome of what I gave up. Yes, I gave up law school but I became a patient advocate and I am actually helping people who deserve it. Who was I helping by working in law firms that represented corporate entities? I didn’t go into the legal field to make money, but I quickly lost sight of my goals. Yes, I became less busy and chronic illness put a halt on my career but I have more time to spend my kids. I will take that over pushy attorneys and business suits any day. I was always complaining I didn’t have enough time for my kids, and while, my prayers weren’t answered in the way I wanted, they were still answered nonetheless. After I was diagnosed, I wanted to God to somehow fix me – without realizing that if he fixed me, I would go back to being busy and having less time for my kids. God doesn’t always grant prayers because he often knows what is best for us better than we ever do. Further, chronic illness has taught me, instead of asking why; to ask what does God wants to me to learn from an experience. If anything, my relationship with God has grown since RA and fibromyalgia came into my life and my family and I have gained so much benefit from that.