We’ve all had those seminal moments – instances where everything after that point changes. Maybe it was that moment when you knew you wanted to get married – or divorced. The birth of a child. The death of a loved one. Graduating from college with the overwhelming question of, “What next?”.
I think that for many people, being diagnosed with rheumatoid disease certainly qualifies for one of those life-altering events.
Many of those moments are the expected culmination of a series events (such as the birth of a child). Others, like the one I just had, are not.
I’m of the age where you start playing what-if games with retirement planning. A few years ago I had decided that I would retire at the end of 2013. As they say, if you want to make God laugh, make a plan. Thanks to the severe realities of having to provide for both health insurance and medical costs, here I am still working, full time.
But not for long.
Last week I had my second TLIF – a form of spinal fusion surgery where the disc material is also replaced. Since my diagnosis in 2008, I’ve had ten RA-related surgeries including three joint replacements and now my second TLIF.
But I’ve also had a well-paying career along with some great travel adventures with my husband and generally a busy life. I’ve fit my RA in around the edges of my life. Even when needing to schedule a knee or hip replacement surgery, my conversation with my surgeon started out with, “Well, I’m traveling to X on this date, how soon do we need to schedule it so I’m well enough to go?”
This time has been different. Yes, I’m two years older since the last time I had TLIF surgery. And, no, my RA is not currently well controlled. But even though I’m doing quite well for such a major operation, the surgery and the subsequent recovery have taken a lot out of me. I’m not quite bouncing back at the same rate that I was. Normally 10 days after surgery, I’m sneaking out driving somewhere when my husband isn’t looking. This time I can barely travel in a car as a passenger.
I’m not sure what’s going on but the realization hit me (that seminal moment) that I need to stop marginalizing my RA and really start taking care of myself. I need to exercise regularly and responsibly. I need to eat better. I need to get some weight off so there’s not so much stress on my joints. Basically I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to make my health my full-time job. Instead of spending 30 to 50 hours a week working, I need to take a large chunk of that time and start taking care of myself.
So, effective the end of this month, I’m going to leave the ranks of the full-time employed. Between now and then, I’m working the required hours and nothing more. After that, I am hopeful that my employer will let me do project work (which I’ve done for them in the past) so I can continue to generate some income. If not, I’ll figure something else out, but I've got a new full-time job of taking care of myself.
When was your last flare?