Seminal Moments

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.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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