In September 2018 I spent nine days in hospital due to lower back pain. It took six months to find a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). My immune system is also excellerating a degenerative disease in the spine, with arthritic discs in my L4/L5 and L5/S1. Also I have a non-hereditary Glucoma, which means I’m slowly loosing my eye sight. I tell you all this not because I am fishing for your sympathy but to give background to the reasons why I have chosen this path in life.
My favourite author is Elizabeth Gilbert and she introduced me to Jim Maclaren, who was a man that had been through the work luck a person could possibly have. He stubbornly to asking himself, who was the best person he could become, as such suffering? And for Elizabeth what she remembers the most about him was he told her, “Never waste your suffering”.
With that in my focus, I was going to use this opportunity to learn and grow. Plus I have a long and dodgy family medical history. My Grandmother died in her forties and my own mother has major medical issues, resides in a nursing home, requires 24/7 care, and is aged in her mid-sixties. I am mid-forties and now living with three diseases that are degenerative. I feel an urge to make the most of my ‘good health’ because my genetics are not going in my favour. And what lessons could I learn from all this pain and suffering?
I have taken time off work to change from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy lifestyle. My four medical specialists all agree stress is a major contributing factor to accelerating the diseases and increasing the severity of my symptoms.
Over the last six months of working, I’ve had many days/weeks off work due to my ‘illness’. I acknowledge we all have stress is in our lives and just like everyone else I kept pushing ahead with the assumption, this is what every other middle age person was dealing with. My stress is no better or worst than the average person, so what was the big deal? ‘Just get on with life and make the most of it’, I hear my critics say. However, my dodgy genetics keep rising and stopping me in my tracks with debilitating back spasms, unable to walk a few steps, and requiring weeks off work.
My life had to change, so earlier this year I started mapping out what I needed to do. Many decisions were made for me in relation to work and our home. Both had contracts ending. Which left a couple of directions possible. For this I thank God for living a blessed life and living in affluent Australia. I am thankful to have options available to me. I like to describe this short phase with the metaphor of having ‘many irons in the fire’ and very quickly as I explored each iron, I found that they were not hot enough to use. One by one I explored each option and discussed with my daughter the pros and cons and one by one the hot irons turned cold. In the end we were left with one red hot option.
After much prayer and deliberation, our new life direction was to travel. I am taking time off between (working) contracts to travel in a caravan on an extended holiday, visiting family and friends.
How can I afford this, you might ask? I am currently under the supervision of a Rheumatologist, trying various drug trials, for my RA and receiving a small payment out of my insurance. These payments are only for a short – fixed period of time. I cahsed in a savings deposit which I had saved and purchased a second-hand car and caravan.
The plan is, I will use the next few months to travel north, visiting family and friends, travelling and living in our van, transitioning to a more healthy diet, incorporate low impact exercise (hydrotherapy / swiminning), and incorporating stress management eg restorative yoga and meditation.
My ongoing health care will continue to be supervised by my GP and Rheumatologist via a chronic health plan, weekly blood tests and specialist drug therapy. We will keep in touch via Zoom and my goal is to put my diseases into remission and find a healthy work-life balance.
Follow my story (frequently posting on Facebook @whydiss) as I retrace townships of my youth, drop in on extended family, catch up with friends, try new foods, heal via hippy stuff, grieve and de-stress.
I give thanks to God for this blessed life and thank Jesus for his sacrifice, where one day I will be pain-free.
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