#HAWMC day 25: red ink

Today’s challenge is to find an old post and edit it, revise it to how I would write it today. I like to think that I’m a fairly good writer; after all, I do it for a living. But even so, there’s always a way to make something better. Here’s the post I chose, and here is the new version:

This week’s Patients for a Moment question is easy to answer and profound at the same time: Who would you be without your illness?

That question is kind of simple but stunning in its implications. Unlike a lot of the bloggers who responded, I remember a time when I wasn’t sick; I remember being able to wear heels all week or stay up all night reading or go a few days (or weeks) getting little sleep, without any consequences. I remember when my life wasn’t filled with doctors visits, lingering pain and sleepless nights. I remember a time when I didn’t have to think about questions like this.

I noticed a lot of the others posted blogs about how they were glad for their illnesses, glad for the compassionate, strong, caring people it made them. Maybe I’m just not at the point they are at with accepting their illnesses and what it’s taken away, but I wouldn’t say I’m glad. I wouldn’t say the good its brought out in me has necessarily been an even trade with what I’ve lost. There are a lot of things I miss: not worrying about what I eat, not worrying about how much I work or how much medications cost and what I’ll do when my patient co-pay benefits run out on the only thing that seems to make a difference. I miss somethings some things I’ve never had and am not even sure I want, including the ability to talk about having kids without discussing how pregnancy will affect me and whetherafter going through nine months off my medicationsI’ll be in any shape to take care of a newborn. (Answer: Probably not.)

But, I am thankful, too, for what I have been able to accomplish, despite my illness. Even though some days I’m so drained I can barely make it through, even though I’m still recovering from a Thanksgiving to Christmas where I worked every day—with literally no days offI’m proud that I work in the field I do, with people out in the world who don’t know what I’m going through and who think what I produce is great, regardless. I’m good at what I do despite my illness. That’s a victory, no matter how small it may seem on days where I can’t even type because my fingers are so swollen, when sitting hurts as much as standing, when my brain is so foggy I can barely string three words together, much less write an article worth reading.

Who would I be without my illness? I’m not really sure that question is even productive, much less truly answerable. I am who I am because of my illness, at least in part. I couldn’t really say who I would be without it.

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#HAWMC day 23: rhyme-tastic

Alright, guys. Today’s prompt for the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge is to rhyme Dr. Seuss-style. I’m not going to lie; I’m kind of over all the rhyming that’s been going on this month.

Instead, I leave you with the poem “Health is Wealth” by Raja Basu:

Health is our most precious wealth, I hope you agree
No doubt, health is the sweetest fruit of our life’s tree.
Money is certainly important, and so is social prestige

But it is a good health that is the source of a constant bliss.
You may have the money to tour the world, but can’t if your health does not permit
You can buy all the food of the world, but your bad health will not let you eat.
You might have huge honor in the city, with everybody bowing before you

But you will fail to enjoy it, if you regularly develop health problems new.
In this way the bad health will always play a serious bar
In the way of your enjoying what you have, wealth, house or car.

On the other hand the good health is a source of constant happines
That will automatically turn your life into one of charm, pleasure and grace.
Take good care of your health, and develop a body that is sound and strong

And ensure a life that is happy and charming, besides being long

#HAWMC day 22: more cowbell

There are so many things I wish were actual factual prescriptions for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. Take shopping, for instance. I wish at my appointment next week, my NP would turn to me and say, “Nessie, you know what will cure what ails you? A trip to the mall or that awesome thrift store or the flea market. Girl, you need to get your shop on.”

Spending the whole day in bed reading would be another kick-butt Rx. “Nessie, no more of this working hard nonsense. For the next week, you need to spend the day in bed, reading all those books you’ve started but haven’t had time to finish.”

Ooh, I wish eating red velvet cake (or, better yet, red velvet cupcakes!) was a scrip. “We need two red velvet cupcakes over here—STAT!”

Getting dressed up and going out somewhere fun—like dancing or to a show—why can’t that be a prescription?

Clearly, we all need to ditch Dr. No Fun and start listening to Dr. Awesome—the kind of doc that prescribes stuff like I mentioned above. But we all know pretty much all of those things would not really make us feel better. (Well, not for very long, anyway. I’m looking at you, red velvet cupcakes.)

What do you wish could be a prescription? (More cowbell, definitely.)

#HAWMC day 21: run lindsay run

Though there are many people I admire online and off, I want to stop and give props to someone I met through blogging: Lindsay of RunLindsayRun fame. (She also has a mostly gluten-, dairy- and sugar-free food blog.)  Lindsay is pretty kick ass; she owns her own business, she’s a mommy to an adorable toddler, she’s a wife—the list goes on and on—and she does it all with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. She’s also kind, sometimes snarky and outrageously funny. When I first discovered her blog, I remember quickly devouring her archives; by the end, I felt as though I knew her.

Lindsay is hardcore; she puts herself out there on her blog: her triumphs, her failures, stories that don’t show her in the best light. She doesn’t make light of her conditions, but she shows how she’s living well in spite of them. All in all, her health activism is one of the best kinds: a life well-lived, surrounded by people she loves and who love her. She shows that it is possible to have an awesome life, even while you’re struggling with the pain, fatigue and, yes, heartache of chronic illness.

So, here’s to Lindsay: Keep on keepin’ on!

#HAWMC day 14: truth or dare

There are plenty of misconceptions about autoimmune arthritis. We’ve all encountered them. For instance:

  • Only old people get arthritis. Wrong! I was 20 when I first experienced symptoms, and 21 when I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (for the first time…).
  • All arthritis is the same. Wrong again. Osteoarthritis (the kind everyone thinks of when they hear “arthritis”) is very different from autoimmune arthritis. Within the category of autoimmune arthritis, there are many different kinds, too.
  • Arthritis is curable. I wish. There’s currently no cure for any kind of arthritis. Kind of sad, right?
  • You’re life is totally over now; all you can do is sit at home when you have arthritis. Not really. Sure, there are days when I feel bad and have to limit my activities, but I still work, I still have hobbies, I still volunteer. I have a very full life despite my arthritis.
  • Every day is the same for people with arthritis. Dead wrong. I may literally feel great one day and terrible the next. I might have a string of awesome days followed by a few terrible ones. I may have weeks or months or years dominated by bad days. The truth is I often don’t know how I’m going to feel on any given day—hell, sometimes on any given part of a day—until I get there.

What did I miss? What are some of your favourite (for lack of a better word) arthritis misconceptions?

And don’t even get me started on psoriasis misconceptions!

  • Psoriasis is contagious. Wrong-o! It’s an autoimmune disease.
  • Psoriasis is caused by bad hygiene. Wrong again. Still an autoimmune disease. Showering doesn’t make it go away.
  • Psoriasis is just a skin disease. It’s no biggie. Super wrong. Again, autoimmune disease. It’s also painful, itchy and embarrassing (mostly because of all the misconceptions!). It also puts us at risk for other diseases, including metabolic syndrome.
  • There’s a cure for psoriasis. Nope. I wish there was, though.

#HAWMC day 13: ‘if a fair world was what you were looking for, he said, you had to appreciate irony’

In the world of patient bloggers, there’s a lot of talk about what’s fair. And I get, really. It’s not fair that we should have to deal with these diseases. It’s not fair that we should be in pain and exhausted and fight to remember words. It’s not fair that our loved ones should have to watch us struggle to do ordinary tasks. It’s not. I know.

I have days when I strive—and sometimes fail—to accept that. I have days when I just want to stand in the middle of a room, stomp my feet and shout, “But it’s not fair!” Or maybe, “Why me?”  Still, usually before long, I see the humour in that image and shake it off.

And honestly, to answer my whiny unhelpful question with another question, “Why not me?” If not me, then who? I don’t know if it’s just who I am or if the PsA and psoriasis had a hand in making me this way, but I feel like I’m a pretty strong person. Most of the time, I’d say I cope with this just fine. If not me, then maybe the person who would have gotten this in my stead wouldn’t be able to deal with it, wouldn’t have an amazing husband, great doctors, awesome friends and a boss that understands—or at least tries to.

I guess the irony in my life is that I’ve got it pretty good, even with dealing with a chronic, life-altering disease. So, maybe, instead of asking, Why me? all the time, I should do better at appreciating what I’ve got. (But don’t get me wrong—I reserve the right to have a pity party every now and then! It’s part of the membership perks of being a Chronic Babe.)

 

(Title via Pete Dexter‘s “Spooner.”)

#HAWMC day 10: no big secret

Since I’m still feeling under the weather, this will be a pretty short one.

What’s my big health secret? The one thing that people think I won’t say but totally would, if asked?

Well, that’s easy: I am sick of being a model patient and still feeling crappy. I’m sick of taking my pills on-time and as directed, sick of sticking needles into my stomach and legs, sick of gentle exercise and eating well—and for what? So I can come down with my fourth cold in as many months? So I can be exhausted all the time? So I can pay dearly for something as innocuous as going to the flea market with my family?

Hmph. And, yes, I am a grumpy gills. That’s another not-so-much-a-secret secret.

#HAWMC day nine: worth overdoing

Today, I really overdid it.

All week, I could feel  my body fighting something off. I was fatigued and achy. My throat become sore later in the week. And then, like an idiot, I took my methotrexate injection; I was so drained, I didn’t even think about what a bad idea that was.

And today, I woke up feeling terrible. But today was my local Walk to Cure Psoriasis, and I’d been looking forward to it for months; I wasn’t going to let a little thing like being sick get in the way. Plus, my mum and mother-in-law were coming in from out of town, and I didn’t want to disappoint them.

So, the Professor and I got up early, and somehow made our way over to where they were holding the walk. And it. Was. Cold. Friday was sunny, beautiful, with a high of 83. Sunday is supposed to be about the same. Today? I don’t think it got out of the low 50s, if even that. But we made it through the walk, and then headed out to get breakfast. That was helpful; I had fruit and a bagel and a big glass of freshly squeezed OJ. That perked me up a bit, so my mum, mother-in-law and I headed over to the local flea market. We all found some great stuff—including, for me, this great, 1940s citrine ring and a great, vintage needlepoint broach—before heading back to my mother-in-law’s place. The Professor and I had planned to stay for dinner, but the whole week of just relentlessly pushing myself and ignoring the signs my body was giving me came crashing down. We came home, and I went to sleep.

I don’t know why I keep doing this; I think I can just push through feeling terrible without any consequences. And that’s just not true. Even though I’ve had psoriatic arthritis for almost six years now, it’s a lesson this crazy disease keeps beating me over the head with: There are consequences for every action. Doing one things means I can’t do something else. And ignoring that gives me a day like today. Still, even if it wasn’t necessarily the best of ideas, I’m glad I went out to the walk; it was to see so many people supporting people like me. And that’s just what the doctor ordered.

#HAWMC day seven: stop calling, i don’t want to talk anymore

Well guys, I bucked up and recorded a voice memo to my health. Because I go the extra distance. For you. You’re welcome.

Click here, since apparently I can stream audio through WordPress without a space upgrade. If anyone knows a good audio streaming site, let me know!

#HAWMC day three: stupid questions

Though it’s been said, “There are no such things as stupid questions”—hell, I’ve even said it myself—some of the queries I’ve been subjected to as a result of my psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis make me want to change my mind about that nugget of popular wisdom.

The granddaddy of them all, however, is probably the most harmful question those of us with (mostly) invisible illnesses face: You look so healthy/normal; how can you be sick?

Of course, psoriasis isn’t necessarily invisible; the itchy, flakey, red, angry patches are easy to see if they’re on a part of the body that’s easily seen, like your face or hands. Luckily for me, my psoriasis is mostly confined to my scalp (at the moment), though it hasn’t always been that way.

And for some people, arthritis isn’t invisible, like the destructive form of psoriatic arthritis mutilans. But for me, in both cases, it mostly is. So, why is it so hard to believe that people could be struggling so hard just to look normal when they do, in fact, look completely healthy?

Well, at least in my case, I try really, really, really hard to make myself seem normal. I do my hair. I put on makeup. I wear nice clothes and shoes. I drink caffeine to give me energy. I take lots of pills to keep the pain and stiffness at bay. I sleep an insane number of hours on the weekend and try to take it easy after work. There’s actually quite a bit of effort into looking and acting effortless.

People often also have an expectation that the sicker you are, the worse you should look. There have been days when I have felt exceptionally horrible and no one was the wiser. That’s kind of the point: It’s an invisible illness. It’s not out there for the whole world to see in the same way being in a wheelchair is.

So here’s the rub: Just because we don’t look sick doesn’t mean we’re not. Just because we look like we’ve got everything under control doesn’t mean we do. And just because we’re good one day doesn’t mean we will be the next. That, my friends, is the fun of an autoimmune disease.