Please pass the healthcare legislation. I never thought it would be so important to me. But, if they don't pass it, I'm looking at not have health coverage for the arthritis I have. It will be a pre-existing injury by the time I get new health insurance when my current contract job is finished end of November.
A bit on arthritis...
For the first time in my life I'm actually looking at old age, sickness and death in the face. I have been injured often from my climbing endeavors, but always in the back of my mind I knew those injuries would heal. Now, I have a disease that will not heal or go away. According to three doctors, I have Ankylosing Spondylitis. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) refers to inflammation of the joints in the spine. AS is also known as rheumatoid spondylitis or Marie-Strümpell disease (among other names). I have a gene that indicates this, plus I have many symptoms that indicate this. I have one more appointment with a rheumatologist next week, but it seems likely that he will make the same diagnosis.
The experience has already significantly changed my life. I can't say I have been happy about it. It's devastating. It is difficult and often incredibly painful to walk and sometimes to just sit (like now as I sit in my bed writing this). It mostly manifests in my ankles and my right hip, but if I push it too hard, it seriously affects my back and neck. I have been pretty depressed and anxious the last 3 weeks.
On the other hand, I have a new and fresh perspective on reality. I don't actually care if I can't go rock climbing. I was overjoyed to be able to swim two days ago. I swam for 15 minutes and had to stop, but I will work my way up to swimming for longer periods of time. I can also stretch. Vigorous yoga is out of the question, but I can do triangle pose, downward dog (sort of), and various other invigorating poses. Plus, I can lift weights as long as I don't do anything that might stress my ankles. I'm not really even thinking about climbing right now. My good days are days when I have minimal pain in my ankles. And you wouldn't believe how appreciative I am of those days. Walking is a joy. Walking is a privilege. Thank Budda, God, Allah, and anyone else I can thank--I can walk!
As well, I view old people or disabled people differently. When I see old people walking with canes, ever so slowly, I can honestly say, "I understand." When I see someone who clearly has difficult walking because of some disability, I actually have a glimpse of what their lives are like. And I laugh at myself because those same old and disabled people are passing me on the street because I'm so slow.
Spiritually, like I said, I'm perhaps getting a hard and clear view of sickness, old age, and death. I have no choice in this matter. No matter how much I work out or will away this disease, it will be with me the rest of my life. And no matter how alive I feel, I could be dead tomorrow. And even if I'm not, I likely will be in pain. So, I'm crying right now because it is so painful to think about. I am tired, I hurt, and I am incredibly sad. But on the other hand, I have had this weight lift off my shoulders with this knowledge. I have no choice in this matter. I will become old, and I will die. So, perhaps I should just lighten up a little bit and appreciate things more. Hear the birds more, be present with myself more often, love and trust myself more deeply, smile at and love other people more easily, acknowledge and alleviate other peoples' pain as much as possible. When I meditate on those things, which I do every day, this doesn't seem so bad. Being alive is really a wonderful thing. So I hurt, but it's springtime, and the birds in the courtyard sound so pretty :)
I have a ways to go before I'm at peace with this disease and with myself. Letting go of my clinging to so many things--climbing, my health, my pride, how I want things to be, my ego, etc--is harder to do than dealing with arthritis. But, in the end, it will lead to me being a kinder, gentler human being. I guess at this point, denial is out of the question. I'm welcoming this new stage in my life with compassion and love.
Wish me some luck.
1 year ago