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. I also have degenerative disease in spine where I have arthritic discs in my L4/L5 and L5/S1.
I have a long and dodgy family medical history. My Grandmother died in her forties and my 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 in age 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.
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 the symptoms.
Over the last six months of working, I’ve had many days/weeks off work due to my illness. I know where the stress is in my life however kept pushing ahead with the assumption, this is what every middle age person has to deal with. My stress is no better or worst than the average person, what is 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 superannuation. These payments are only for a short – fixed period of time. And I was left a small house deposit saved which I used to pay for a second-hand car and caravan.
The next few months will involve travelling in our van and transitioning to a healthy diet, low impact exercise (hydrotherapy), 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. My goal is remission from RA and finding 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.