Despite being a one day shorter week, it seems like it a longer work week than usual. Needless to say, it has been one of those weeks where the craziness is in full force. As the end of the quarter nears at the office, it is race to get leases fully executed prior to its end so every day turns in a mad rush of a situation. Yesterday, it was old school because our computer network, phones, and anything network related went down at 4:00 pm. My company is so network and computer based that production had to stop. Our printers are on the network too so that means even if we worked on something, we couldn’t print it out. Whatever we worked on had to be off the network, and the since the desktop is the only thing off the network, our options were very limited.
Needless to say, I did not leave the office until a half hour later than I usually do because I ended up running from building to building (my company is three buildings) trying to figure out the game plan for three very important leases to get out and make it to their destination today. However, despite my best efforts, the leases did not make it out the door but at least I tried and everyone knows I did. I know that I am a good employee because even when the network failed us, I didn’t. Many employees stopped working when the network went down but I got creative (as I have done in the past) and actually got work done. I am usually one of the last to leave at the end of the day. However, in all honesty, there are days where I rush out the door at 5:00 because I have had enough.
I ended up missing my yesterday appointment with the chiropractor because I had to stay later, the third one in three weeks so it the chiropractor appointments are ending up once a week rather than twice. My attorney won’t be thrilled with that. After the second corticosteroid shot, I am starting to see relief. I am still not pain free but I am getting there. The RA and Fibro pain has calmed down as result of all the measures to get me pain free. However, I am taking a lot of medications: Methotrexate, Sulfasalazine, Gabapentin, Humira, Mobic, Folic Acid and other supplements, and the corticosteroid shots. Sometimes I feel like a walking medicine cabinet. Ironically, I don’t always take them twice a day as I should and I am still seeing relief - something, I can bring to my doctor’s attention as a positive in my treatment plan.
In recent weeks, I have found myself getting very forgetful and that’s hard to bear. Perhaps, it is all the medications I take or that I am not getting enough sleep, or even that I am stressed with all that is going on in my life right now. Whatever it is, the fact that I have suddenly gotten forgetful is scary. Here’s the thing, I don’t forget anything especially factual information. I can forget faces but I don’t forget names. At work, I remember tenants and where they are located. In my prior job, I remembered all the file numbers and names. I even remembered facts about the cases we were working on so when someone in the office would say to me, we had a case once where this happened and this is how we responded, I would be able to tell them which case that was and that is something a lot of people didn’t remember.
Now that my master’s degree is done, I have had more time to read. In fact, I even listen to audiobooks on my way to and from work. My mind has to constantly be working and maybe it is that I am a type A personality but that is how I live and breathe – on information. Even as I lay to bed at night, I start to plan certain aspects of my life, whether it is about tomorrow, a trip that I am taking a week from now, or visiting my mom over the weekend. I plan and I think – that is how I live my life. I hate when plans change or something falls in my lap at the last minute throwing me off schedule. Moreover, I cannot imagine losing any aspect that pertains to my mind. It is a scary thought. Maybe it is that I am getting older that I am getting more forgetful but it really scares me to death that I could someday lose my mind. I would rather go through anything worse than just simply losing my mind. When I was kid, my siblings would be out playing and I would be reading. I once told my husband if I am ever in a position where I am physically unable to do anything, I want you to make sure that there are audio books playing around me. My mind is as important to me as a labor’s hands are to the laborer so it makes sense that I want it to continue being active. The thought of sitting around doing nothing brings shivers down my spine. I hope that makes sense and doesn’t sound too crazy.
My toddler turns three on Monday which is not only a milestone for him but a milestone for me. The following morning after I had him, my Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms kicked in. Within a week, I was diagnosed with RA. I have come a long way from those dark days. It was a very hard time for me because instead of rejoicing at the birth of my son, I had lost function of my hands and legs. I remember being unable to get out of bed, using the walls for support and hoping that my legs would not give out on me, and my hands being curled up in fists. My sister was my savior because, if not for her, I would have never been able to get through the next few months.
I was in so much pain, incapacitated by it, and not being able to be strong for the first time in my life, I welcomed death. Of course, in those days I didn’t really understand the impact of death. I didn’t truly understand what the loss of me would do to my family but had I known, I wouldn’t have welcomed it so strongly. I cried for many months not because I was in pain, but because I lost control of everything I once I had control of. My life was altered and because I was facing my biggest adversary so thus far in my life, I felt like I was destined for failure. The only thing that kept me going through those dark and dreary days of my life was my kids. I fought through the pain, fatigue, sickness and depression to come back to them. When I look back at those days, I don’t know who that person was. The person that I know myself to be would have never allowed herself to succumb to anything and I nearly did. I just know that I had to come back- and I did - and not just to my family but also to myself.
All of the lessons that life had taught me previously, I used to get through the darkest period of my life. I educated myself, learned how to better take of my body, I sought support, and I took God’s hand. I wasn’t alone in my journey – I had my family, my friends, and God on my side but, at first, I was too busy wallowing in my misery to see that. Once I was able to gain my mental and emotional strength, I gained my physical strength. Before RA and fibromyalgia came into my life, my relationship with God was there but for some unknown reason, I didn’t think I deserved God’s love or respect. I thought I had made so many sinful mistakes in my life and as a result, I was ashamed of God. When I finally reached out to God and he took my hand, I started to feel the weight of all my pain, my worries, my anxieties and my struggles dissipate. I turned to God in my darkest hour and I continue to turn to God when I found myself feeling alone in the world. When I brother became ill, God is what helped me to get through those sleepless nights when I poured myself into research so I could better understand my brother’s care and to get him the best treatment possible. It was God who helped me deal with the loss of my brother and the issues that I was facing in my marriage at the same time.
As we enter the ninth month without my brother, acceptance has finally surfaced itself. My brother’s battle with cancer still resonates in my mind like a memory that burns at my soul. For a long time, I wanted to understand so that I could have some kind of closure but understanding isn’t what I got. The closure has come in my reinventing my purpose as a human being. I have found a way to put aside anger and hurt, resentment and hate, and any grudge that once I held. I have learned to love myself first and foremost and I have learned to accept the things that I cannot control.
I have dealt with a lot in recent years: financial issues, marriage issues, health issues, and the death of my brother. I am only human and sometimes, I cry for the fate that life has handed me. Even though I have my moments, I have always been a fighter. My mother can attest to that because even as a newborn, I fought to live and even many months later, after an illness, I again fought for my life. Growing up, I was always sick and I don’t ever remember a time in my life where I ever felt healthy, but despite my health, I always continued on. In the summer of 1997 in Jerusalem, I gave birth to my daughter two months early after getting a Hepatitis A acute infection. (Hep A in pregnant women carries serious risks to the mother and baby especially in the third trimester and can lead to an increased risk of preterm labor – I thought I had the flu and didn’t get to a hospital until I could barely stay awake from weakness.) The first night I went into the hospital, I needed two pints of blood and the next day, I nearly died. Miraculously despite how weak both of us were, we both survived. My marriage ended (not that it was a great one to start with) in 2000 and when I left Jerusalem with my newborn son, the price I paid for walking away was my daughters. If not for the fact that my son needed me, I am not sure how I could have gotten through the first year. Until this day, I have very little communication with my three daughters. Despite everything I have endured, I have always managed to keep fighting and to survive.
These days, I just appreciate life and accept that some things are out my control. I have learned to let go of a lot and I have learned to get past my own inadequacies and weaknesses. I have allowed myself to mourn my brother, to find myself, to work on my marriage issues, and to honestly deal with our financial situation. I want to come out on top and in the past, I let anger guide me. I became better and overcame because I told myself I would not let anyone rejoice in my misfortunates, especially anyone that caused it. Now, I overcome and prevail for myself and I don’t look backwards. Life is too short to dwell on things and scenarios that are out of your control and to tell others hurt you or let their anger and resentment affect you. As I tell my son when he feels he has been wronged by others, “Remember the law of the garbage truck.”
“Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you.
So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Believe me. You’ll be happier.” Dave Pollay.
Being a survivor and a fighter, as I have learned, means I do what I need to do for my own happiness and not to please or displease anyone else. It has taken a long time for me to get there but I have and in turn, I am learning to be happier than I have been in a long time. The “me” before RA and fibro is gone and so is the “me” before my brother’s illness and passing. The “me” that exists now isn’t only a fighter and a survivor but also a lover of life.