✨✨ Long post, but I promise it has a point. Please read to the end! (And please excuse typos.) ✨✨
In the past year, I have been told by orthopedic surgeons that my right knee looks like an 80-year-old’s. I was told that my right foot and ankle look like a 90-year-old.
And yesterday, that my left wrist looks like an 80-year-old’s.
I’m 33. And I’ve had this illness since childhood.
In the instances of my ankle and my wrist, I was also told that there’s not much we can do about it.
Surgeries on my right knee and right hand are imminent and unavoidable. A surgery on my right foot or my left wrist may have no effect at all because in the words of my surgeon, usually, wrist and ankle replacements are meant for “little 85-year-old ladies” who won’t wear them out too much. They would not be considered medically successful on someone my age.
And so, I’ve gotten multiple injections in my knee and feet, and today, an injection into my thumb joint. I own 4 wrist and hand braces, several finger splints, three or four ankle and foot braces, and a couple of knee braces, too. I will have my right knee joint totally replaced this year. I will likely need my right thumb replaced in the future.
But being told that there is little to no hope for my right foot or my left wrist is rather discouraging.
For those who don’t know, I also have some weird issues with my heart rate and occasional bouts of shortness of breath and flushing. The emergency room doctors never have any idea what the cause is, nor do any of my 10 or so specialists.
Some of the worst things doctors can tell patients, especially younger patients like myself, is that there’s nothing they can do, or they don’t know what is wrong or what is causing your symptoms.
And I hear these things all the time along with being told that I am an anomaly and a complex, complicated case.
But this isn’t a whiny post, or a post to make anyone worry.
This is the moment where I tell you all that over the last year I’ve realized that while my body may age quicker than I am, that I still have a lot of life left to live and I will do so, even if I need to wear ugly braces, or have multiple surgeries, or have a lower level of fitness and mobility than my peers.
I will do things that I want to do, and not worry about if they are nerdy or dorky or snobby or weird or whatever. I will say yes to plans when I feel like it, and I will say no to plans when I don’t, and I will try not to worry about what others think of me.
I will wear what I want, and I will get tattoos if I want to, and I will talk about my pets like they are my kids until the day comes that I have human children, if that day ever comes at all. Which it may, or may not. And that is OK.
I will go on trips and travel, and I will pamper myself when I feel like it. I will talk about ghosts and astronomy and birdwatching and politics and quantum physics and the Kardashians and Britney Spears.
And my health.
I no longer fear living a life that others think is strange or weird or in any way nontraditional.
Because my life IS nontraditional.
I live with multiple illnesses that have basically destroyed my body and may continue to do so forever. So I’ll put up with the odd looks whenever I have weird apparatuses on my limbs, and I’ll put up with the whispers when one day I’m in the emergency room & the next day I’m having a beer at the lake.
The thing is, I care very deeply about a lot of things and a lot of people. Sometimes, I care too deeply. But I’m starting to realize that I don’t need to care about every little thing.
Some people get so worked up about things that are inconsequential. People act like they have it so hard, when they really don’t. Life happens, and we ALL deal with problems and struggles.
I know so many people who suffer silently every day with different issues ranging from relationship problems to family drama to medical issues people don’t even know about. I know people who are currently suffering silently with health problems￼, with strength and with grace.
I really no longer want to hear petty complaints and catty remarks. Drama doesn’t serve me, and I realize that it never really has. I’m not about to waste my precious life gossiping about others, being petty or judgmental, or inserting myself in other people’s business.
I want to spend my time with people that I love and doing things that I enjoy. I want to treasure the good days and the days I feel somewhat well.
Many of my days are spent feeling like I am wasting them. I’m spending them at doctors appointments or I’m laying around in pain, and can barely get any work done. I beat myself up over it, and I worry what someone would think if they knocked on my door and I’m wearing sweats, with unwashed hair, looking like a madwoman trying to get comfortable at my computer, propped up with pillows, with heating pads all over. I drive myself crazy comparing my career path to others and feeling like a fraud or an imposter in my own skin, just because my life doesn’t look like theirs.
I minimize my own successes, because for some reason there’s a small part of me, a part of me that’s very irrational and insecure, that feels like, because some of my successes that I have built are related to my health struggles, are somehow not as real or as good as other people’s. But the fact of the matter remains that I have already succeeded in this life and I will continue to do so. I’ve triumphed despite my struggles, and in some cases because of my struggles, and that’s OK.
No matter if your struggle is medical, or some other hurdle that you have to overcome in life, you can use those things to fuel your fire.
No one’s life is perfect.
I am very vocal and open about my struggles and my imperfections. I’m finally at the age and at the place in my life where I possess a level of self-awareness about my shortcomings and flaws, past and present. For instance, I’m well aware that this post may come off as extremely narcissistic to some, and attention-seeking to others.
But you know why that doesn’t bother me? Because I know that it will also help and inspire some people. And even if it helps or inspires just one person, that makes me happy. Living your life with honesty and authenticity can sometimes make such an impact that you know nothing about.
Every word you say, every thought you think, and every action you take has a ripple effect in this world.
So I can spend my time crying because my joints are aging about three times faster than the rest of my body. I can lament over the loss of my once rather impressive athletic ability and physique. I can spend my nights laying awake with anxiety about what the future might hold. I can cry because of pain. And I do all those things sometimes. Trust me. It is frustrating, discouraging, exhausting, and disheartening to live with chronic incurable illness.
But I don’t want to dwell too much.
I don’t want to waste my one precious life focusing on these negative moments.
The important things in life are all of the OTHER moments. The time spent with loved ones. The impact you’ve made on other people. The love you receive and the love you give. Kindness. Charity. Fortitude. Grit. Peace. Comfort. Contentment. Creativity. Empowerment. Memories. Faith. Humor. Magic. Moments of clarity or enlightenment. Feelings of awe and inspiration.
I guess my point is that while yesterday wasn’t a great day physically or in terms of my medical situation, I am not down in the dumps. I am staying positive. Because life is good and life is too short to worry about or focus on the times when it is not good.
It could always be worse. For sure. And I always remember that.
Perspective is key in times of struggle or hardship.
I’ve never realized that as much as I have in recent years and I hope that by me sharing my journey with you all that I can offer at least some semblance of hope or a glimmer of light to help ease your burdens, whatever they may be.