When we ( us women/moms) feel sick, what do we usually do? We probably do what every mother does, we put ourselves last. It’s like the minute we become moms we forget that we are a person too and everything is all about our kids. We feed them first, we bath them first, we get them dressed first, we are always last and never ever think of doing something for ourselves first. I hope my blog today will change this for you.
For several weeks leading up to September 24th 2015, I was feeling crappy and not paying attention or listening to my body. I kept saying to myself, “I don’t need to see the doctor, I’m fine, I’m busy, I’ll go tomorrow” , I always had something more important to do, I just wasn’t a priority, my kids, my work, our schedules were always too busy for me to take a time out. I kept saying and thinking to myself I’ll go tomorrow, but I never went “tomorrow”, I actually never went at all until shit got really scary and what I thought was just a stupid little thing became the one thing that would change my entire life.
I had been experiencing some swelling, noticed it in my feet and hands. I thought it was a summer heat thing and although I felt “off” I couldn’t put my finger on it so instead I chose to ignore it because let’s face it I was too busy. Weeks went by, my symptoms got worse and just like that I woke up one day and couldn’t lift or feel my arms, close my hands or bend my elbows. My feet had swollen to an unrecognizable size. I was dizzy and felt a type of tired that could only be explained as debilitating. I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom, crying because I couldn’t walk to the bathroom and I knew something was wrong. On September 21st, 2015, I finally went to see my family doctor – who I’ve known since I was 15. All she said when she walked in was “oh Denise” and I broke down crying. I think I broke down for a few reasons, I was tired of feeling like crap and I was scared. I knew I had to run a battery of tests to confirm it, but all the signs pointed to Rheumatoid Arthritis ( RA). RA is a chronic, autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints.
On September 24th my diagnosis was confirmed, I had a chronic disease with no known cure, a disease I was told I’d have to live with forever, a disease that would have me on a list of medication for the rest of my life. I was put on steroids, methotrexate (a chemo drug) and hydroxychloroquine. The side effects of both the steroids ( which is anxiety and weight gain) and the methotrexate, which causes you to feel fatigued, to say the least it was a rough few weeks. For me to open up about this is very hard because when I look back, I know I had gone through some form of depression and in hindsight I probably should have taken care of myself better, but at the time I was in survival mode. My dad has RA, I didn’t want to end up with the deformities he had that resulted from this disease. I witnessed how much he suffered and the permanent damage it caused and that scared the shit out of me. Also being on this many meds is for real scary. I don’t’ even like taking an Advil and here I was supposed to poison myself everyday taking 9 pills ( that for me was the hardest part).
I wish I could share the weeks after being diagnosed, but the truth it I don’t remember them. As embarrassing as this is now, I hated life. I was pissed off as much as I was scared. Those weeks were filled with doctors appointments, pills and blood test after blood test.
At some point, i remember thinking this is not me. This can not be my life. And as much as I hate to admit that I was feeling sorry for myself, I was. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for because I was doing a great job at it myself. But at some point, I’m not sure when it was, but I was like “F..this, I have priorities”.
My rheumatologist, said that one of the best things I could do was focus on my nutition and start exercising. She said that building muscle protects joints. THIS WAS MY GAME CHANGER!!!!
Listen to what I am saying- BUILD MUSCLE, IT WILL PROTECT YOUR JOINTS!!! This probably is the most important message for someone who has RA. I called or emailed every single gym, private trainer, health and wellness center I could find in my area. I was determined to find a trainer who had the experience in working with someone like me. Who would help me learn how to “build muscle to protect my joints”, someone who would just help me figure this whole exercise thing out. I had made myself a commitment, I decided I needed to take care of me. I needed to care of me, so that I could take care of my family. My boys need a healthy mom and so in February 2016 I joined the gym. I started changing our eating habits and our food choices. I made a change for my family and for me!
It’s been 641 days since I was diagnosed, 1 year, 9 months and 2 days of me living with RA. But what I am most proud of is that it has been 496 days since I joined a gym, 1 year, 4 months and 10 days of me putting myself first. 496 days of me being one healthy, bad ass, strong mom!
I won’t lie, some days are harder than others, some days I struggle, but most days I feel great. On the days I struggle I still get up and get my workouts in, it may not be 100% but it gets done. I’ll modify it, I’ll slow it down but the one thing I don’t do is make excuses.
There isn’t one excuse out there that is good enough to not take care of yourself. Be honest with yourself and make time, find the time. Why wait until you get sick or something happens for you to realize that you need to take care of yourself? Don’t’ let anything, anyone or all the excuses stop you. Your kids, your family, your jobs- they are not excuses, stop using them as one and start using them as your reasons. What my kids see now, is a mom who is healthy, happy and strong. What I hope I am teaching them is resilience, commitment, self appreciation, hard work and above all, self respect. I want my boys to know and understand that women are strong. I want them to grow up knowing that there is no doubt a woman can “do that too” and I want them to know that there are no excuses great enough to stop you from achieving your goals and being your best self. I want them to know that their mother is unstoppable! Everyone has a story and we can all make excuses, but it comes down to a choice. You either want it or you don’t. You can either make everything a negative, or you can change your mind set. You can either do nothing, or do something. The choice is always yours.
In health & love