Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Karen Elizabeth Peters (17)

Karen writes:

My struggle began slowly, with morning stiffness and sore hands. As weeks and months ebbed away, so did my health. I went from being an active person to someone who could only mange one small task and then needed to rest for quite a while. It came on gradually, but one day I noticed my life had changed. I couldn't hold a pen and write more than few sentences, my hand would seize up for hours. Painting was out of the question and that broke my heart. I could no longer take my dog on long walks through the woods or around the neighbourhood. My hands, feet, knees and wrists hurt constantly. I couldn't even use a can opener! There were visible changes in the shape of my joints. The fatigue was brutal. I would sleep for 10 or 11 hours and yet wake up looking and feeling exhausted. My symptoms seemed nebulous but I have a wonderful family doctor who felt it might be rheumatoid arthritis. Tests upon tests pointed to that conclusion. I was put on a waiting list to see a specialist. While waiting, everything got worse. I lost weight because quite frankly I didn't have the energy or appetite to eat. I worked but often came home so tired and sore I could have thrown up. It even hurt to steer the car or move my foot from accelerator to brake. On December 18th, a day before my 43rd birthday, I got answers. It was rheumatoid arthritis and it was an aggressive case. The medicines all sounded scary and harmful but what choice did I have if I wanted to get my life back? I started on low dose chemotherapy and other medicines to slow down the debilitating effects of the disease. I vowed to do everything in my power to get myself better. The specialist said yoga, walking, getting enough quality sleep and eating well would all make a difference. I became a coach, of sorts, for myself and started a regimen of taking good care of myself. I learned to pace myself, not an easy task for me. As a naturally born type A personality, I have a very hard time leaving things undone. I learned my energy is a precious commodity that needs to be well managed. Some days the house looks cleaner than it does on others but I always serve good, healthy meals (I bulk bake on my good days). I make yoga, even five minutes on tough days, a staple of my life. Each night I'm in bed by 9:30.

It's been almost six weeks and I am seeing such a difference in both my symptoms and myself. As much as it has been a struggle, I've had a few "ah ha" moments. I discovered that the physical was only half the battle. I looked within myself and realized that in order to really make the most of my healing I had to mentally realign myself. It has taught me to flow with life and to release all resistance, all negativity. I have no choice but to accept myself as I am. I'm finding this courtesy is being extended to others as well. Out of my illness came a sort of liberation.