Do you ever contemplate what your life would be like if chronic illness had not suddenly become a part of it? Sometimes, I look at what I have lost since chronic illness came into my life – changed career plans, lost friendships, screwed up relationships, a changed financial situation, etc. For a long time, the loss of those things made me really sad but over time, I have learned that for everything lost, something can be gained. I think the hardest part is probably living with the fact that I am reminded daily that RA and fibromyalgia are here to stay.
When you are living with pain and symptoms daily, it is hard to forget that chronic illness is a part of your life. Often times, when I find myself dwelling on this, I hear myself saying, “So much has been lost and gained in the past five years.” I think the hardest part was losing my brother. It was far worse than my failing health, financial troubles, and relationship troubles. It was far worse than my mother’s stroke even though this was a difficult undertaking as well.
So yes, things have been lost but things have been gained. I am a stronger person than I ever was before – both in conviction and in the ability to see past my limitations. Life has thrown me some curveballs and I learned to swerve. I also found that sometimes I could catch those curveballs and throw them back. I have learned what it means to stand firm in the things that you believe in. I no longer allow others to dictate who I should be or who I shouldn’t be. I know, without a doubt, the kind of person I am and I am someone that I would be proud to know.
Okay, do I ever wonder if it could be different than it is now? Yes, of course, but I am smart enough to know better. Relationships and friendships ended, not because of RA and fibro, because they were bad for me in the first place. I changed because RA and fibro required me to. Others in my life didn’t and I am better off without those people. Putting my dream of law school aside and leaving a stressful high paying job gave me more time with my kids and more time with my brother when he was sick. Being diagnosed also gave me the wonderful opportunity to reach out to others dealing with similar struggles.
When I was first diagnosed, it was inconceivable for me to imagine an alternate outcome for my life, my family and my career. I never imagined myself taking a different road or a road less travelled. I just know that I am so very grateful for the chances that have come my way despite chronic illnesses and despite the losses I have incurred.
I think that as we navigate through a changed destination, we never really know the outcome. Sometimes, our new route is filled with loneliness and grief. Sometimes, it wears us down to our core. Others however, our new journey leads us to things we never dreamed of. So, we need to keep our hearts and minds open. Sometimes, the road that we don’t pick may feel like some kind of punishment but if we are patient, it may lead us to better and greater things.
Chronic illness changes our lives in ways big and small. It changes us to our core and sometimes it shakes our very existence. The good news is that there are blessings in the midst of chaos and pain. For me, I get to live life as I see fit and sometimes, it is not perfect or planned but it is still my life. When I am thrown a curveball, I know how to swerve and sometimes, even how to hit those curveballs and knock them right out of the ballpark.
I don’t know how my life would be without chronic illness but at the same token, I don’t know a life without it. So, I can wonder all day but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I make the best of everyday and I enjoy the blessings that have been bestowed upon me. That is all any of us can do.