As 2011 draws to a close, I can’t help but look back at the past year of my life which was full of so many ups and downs. Ankylosing Spondylitis can be a challenge. Throw in health scares, full schedules, and a pinch of drama and you might as well put on your seat belt and get ready for the bumpy ride. I know it may seem silly to say, but I don’t think I would change any of it. I would of loved to have things modified a bit to protect my loves ones, but each adventure made me a better person. I wish my loved ones never had to experience their hardships, but also know they too were strong enough to handle them. I would say the way I now view my surroundings and the people in it are as if I am seeing it, experiencing it, for the first time. I now look at things with a different perspective. Those who know me well know I was never a person who loved surprises, good or bad. I liked to be the person in control, and any loss of it could send me into a tailspin of frustration. I always believed in a higher power, but I wasn’t a person who really, truly embraced my faith…that is until this past year.
My AS has tested my physical and emotional strength time and time again. It is as if it sits there poking at me asking how much more it can do until I break. Many of us with chronic illnesses can relate to that annoying pain that tries to conquer us. It is up to us to silence it. I am currently on my 4th medicine, Cimzia, to try and control some of the pain and progression of AS. Sadly the pain is still not controlled. I will admit I have days where I wonder if I can really keep going on. The times when even opening my eyes or lifting my head from the pillow is a chore due to pain. Days when my hands, legs and feet are an embarrassment because I can barely use them. Sitting up straight is definitely out of the question most of the time and if I need a lot of energy, well, it just isn’t going to happen. After all of these “downs” I look “up” and realize there is a reason I was chosen to have these hurdles. God must truly believe in me, so who am I to disregard his faith in me? I instantly remind myself that I can push forward. It may take longer than a healthy person, but I will get there and in a positive way.
From the outside looking in my past year would really seem to test a person’s mental well-being. People seem amazed at how I approach the situations so positive. They see it as remarkable. I see it as the only way. The pattern of the year for me seemed to be good news, bad news, and repeat. I began secretly dreading good news because it meant shortly following bad news would arrive. Between my AS adventures with pain and medicine working and not working, my mother’s deterioration of health, my daughter’s cancer, misdiagnosis of cancer, and then a final diagnosis of indeed a malignant cancer for her, even the strongest person would break. I cried only a few times through all of this. I will admit there were days I wanted to, but feared if I did, I wouldn’t stop so I pushed forward. I have learned I cannot control what God has planned for us and must accept, or at least respect, the outcome he chooses. I believe life and faith go hand in hand. It is okay not always knowing the answers. Please know you are never alone in your battle, no matter what you’re facing.
To all of the people that either helped me through this ride with their amazing support or to anyone who has had a roller coaster year themselves, you don’t realize how positive, strong, and hopeful you can be until the only choice you have is to approach life in this way. I cherish the support of family. I have found extreme comfort in old and new friends. I have had amazing past friendships renewed and am absolutely grateful to have these people back in my life. I look forward to not only the year ahead, but to making many, many more happy memories with the people I love.