Well I now have a diagnosis and a new beginning point from which to launch into a new life. I have Rheumatoid arthritis. There is no cure only containment. It means a completely different lifestyle to the one I have lived for the last 56 years. It means tablets, drugs, constant blood tests, xrays, ultrasounds, bone scans. Time spent at the doctors and the specialist. Everything I dislike about health.
I actually felt a little special. When I was being examined by the Rheumatologist she called in a new registrar just to look at my hands. Apparently my inflammation was something of a wonder to both of them. Where there should be knuckles there is a lot of fluid and tiny little bumps that indicate where my knuckles actually are. My feet and ankles are swollen, my knees are worse. The pain in my body after sleeping is so bad that it takes me a few hours to be able to move around in a normal way. Too much rest it seems stiffens up my body to the point that it gets stuck, so bedtime has become somewhat of a nightmare.
I get very tired very easily but the thought of what I wake up to each morning makes me delay sleep for as long as I am able. The specialist assures me that we can control this and eventually if things work out I can go into remission. So many others do, it is just a matter of finding the right treatment. The word she used to describe my arthritis was seropositive. I had to look it up when I got home. It means more severe with more joint damage, disability and inflammation outside of the joints.
It seems when I do something I always take it to the next level. I was expecting the diagnosis, although not quite as severe as that, and while I was prepared I was not prepared for the emotions that have overtaken me since yesterday afternoon.
I cried in the room with the specialist, and I cried when I went to Centrelink today to organize a different payment to the job seeking one I am now on. My age before was a barrier to finding work, as I have been looking since September but have not got even close to an interview. 40 years experience it seems does not count when you are female and over 50. Now until I am well into treatment and the severity of it all settles down, I cannot work. I always thought that there was something I could do but it seems everything at this stage will just cause damage. Having to put my illness on a job application will also get it thrown out before it is even looked at.
So government assistance is what I need at the moment. The job seeking payment I am on does not cover the cost of my monthly rent so I have been selling all my personal possessions to pay bills and utilities. Now the new payment will be more money but I was told today that it takes from 3 to 6 months to be approved. I will run out of things to sell before I even get the new payment. Which by my calculations still will not be enough to pay for everything.
So my breakdowns of the last two days have come from the fact that I have gone from relatively healthy with a job, independent and able to live on a tight budget but still able to manage, to being dependent on a government payment that does not cover basic living expenses and with no way of finding a job to supplement or replace that payment. I am relying on the support of everyone around me, a hard lesson for me to learn.
What I need to do for the moment is to find some focus and make the decisions that need to be made. I will eventually have to move out of my home. I cannot afford it at the moment and most definitely will not be able to afford it for the next 3 to 6 months. There will also be medication, constant trips to the hospital and doctors for which I will need petrol. There is no money for food, or any basic living expenses. So getting my head around all this, while trying to stay at least a little positive and hopeful is going to be difficult but not impossible.
The decisions I make over the next few months will be so very important for the direction that my life will now take. Once the treatment starts to take affect and the pain settles down a bit, I will be able to make better and more long lasting plans.
For now with the support of friends and family around me as well as the doctors and the hospital, I will take each day as it comes. There is a reason for everything and it is now my job to work out what I am to learn from this and how I can help others through my experiences. Not the path I expected my life to take and certainly not the way I had intended to live but I have what I am given and will do with it what I can.
This will teach me to take better care of myself, it will teach me to go within for personal healing and it will take me on a journey to find my inner strength and resilience. At times I feel like just sitting in a corner and fading away, but I will not allow myself to give in that easily. This is a mountain just waiting for me to climb it, and climb it I will.
I am not ready to give up on life yet, and although I may slip back down into depression as I go along this path, I will fight to reach the top of this mountain. I will succeed in living the life that I know I deserve and that I know I can attain.