Port Placement and Panic

On the 11th I had my port placed. It’s funny, I’d spent months wanting it, but when the time came, I totally panicked. The idea of a catheter, just hanging out that close to my heart, suddenly had me second guessing my decision. The fact that some doctors were on board with the decision, while the others weren’t, didn’t help matters. In pre-op, the nurses couldn’t get a vein, so they called the IV team, they used an ultrasound, numbed up my arm, and went after a deep vein. The nurse told me that my veins are really small, and apologized for having to work hard to get into the vein. She also said I would be happy with my port.

I had to be at the hospital at 6am…but when I arrived, I wasn’t on the schedule. I hadn’t really slept the night before, so I ended up falling asleep and was taken to the pre-op area at around 7am. I still wasn’t on the schedule, but they said I’d go back by 9:30. 9:30 came and went, and at this point my anxiety is screwing up my vitals. The lowest my heart rate got was 99 bpm. My blood pressure was a mess, too. I didn’t end up going back until 1:30. By then, I was a mess. I’m begging for the versed, and worried that I’m going to just back out of the entire thing. There was a miscommunication between the nursing staff and myself. Basically I hate pain killers. They make me vomit, and I just don’t like the feeling as they wear off. Throwing up, shaking, cold sweats, it’s a disaster.

For some reason the nurses wrote down that I had a low tolerance to both pain killers, and versed. 

After several syringes, the frustrated nurse told me that I had a really high tolerance to versed, not a low one. I told her that I knew that. That’s when I found out, basically, that I hadn’t been given enough of either drug. I was a bit loopy, but totally coherent. The doctor started, and I hadn’t been told we were starting, and I felt pressure and blood.

It isn’t pleasant to feel your blood trickling down your neck.

The procedure went well, thankfully, and I went home, but panic was immediate. Every move that I made caused my neck or chest to twinge. I kept worrying that the catheter was going to stab my heart. I kept worrying that I was going to get a blood clot and die. I still am worried about the port, especially the blood clot issue, but I’m realizing how necessary it is. I haven’t had my infusion of fluids and vitamins in over a month. I am going in on Monday. It’s still scary to think about my port being accessed, but I need to get used to it.

I think part of the stress of the port, is feeling like I’m more sick. The port is going to improve my quality of life, but having it makes me feel like I have, “sick girl,” stamped on my forehead. If my gut wasn’t messed up, I wouldn’t need it. Well, I’d probably need it eventually for IVIG, but I’d have a while at least. Nobody will see it once the wound heals, unless I have it accessed, but it’s just a stressful situation for me personally.

I’ve met people online who seem to want to be sicker. They want the feeding tubes, the ports, the wheelchairs, and I just don’t get it. I’d love to fade into normalcy. I want a job. I want to drive. I want to go to a restaurant and eat something. I want my dogs to just be dogs, not dogs with jobs. At the end of the day, I can get back to most things. I may never be able to eat normally, but that’s okay, that I can work around. I would love to get IV fluids regularly.

Maybe it isn’t about getting back to how I felt before getting sick, but about learning to find ways to enjoy life and be happy with the life I’m living now. 

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Port Placement and Panic

Flare City – Autoimmune Blister and Staph Infection

It’s no secret that I’ve been stuck in a pretty constant flare that only seems to be getting worse. The only option I have is to wait for my insurance to approve IVIG. We’ve done one steroid dose pack and I’m preparing for a second. To make things even more fun, my rheumatologist is out on maternity leave, and my insurance company was taken over by another company (it’s a contract deal). The transition hasn’t been smooth, to the point where I can’t even call and get a hold of someone at my insurance company…and I’ve even trying for six weeks.

Yes folks, you read that properly, I haven’t been able to speak to a human being at my insurance company for over six weeks.

While this may annoy the average 31-year-old insured individual, it’s definitely not the best when you’re in the middle of complex insurance approval processes. My chair is coming on Monday (if I can work out a payment plan), but IVIG still remains in limbo. My rheumatologist’s replacement suggested I switch to another practice, something that was discussed a year ago but discarded as I prefer my rheumatologist, and the university hospital nearby has a horrid chief of rheumatology (or at least did a year ago). Point is, I like my rheumatologist, she just happened to have a baby the same time period where my insurance company went to shit.

I was dealing with the increased gastroparesis symptoms, the GI bleeding, the fatigue, all of it…and then something new for me happened. I woke up last weekend, with a blister on my hand. It was just a little thing, but over the course of the day it got worse and worse. There was speculation on my part, and my friends’ parts, over what caused this blister. The best we could come up with is that my hot water bottle somehow burned me, but I didn’t wake up, and the bottle doesn’t have a leak. Moreover, I haven’t ever had an issue with it. So this blister just keeps getting worse, and eventually it takes over my entire knuckle and is working down into my hand.

I’m being eaten by a blister of unknown origin.

My friend Mike is a chef, and he informs me that I need to ignore everyone else’s advice and just pop it, throw some antibacterial ointment on it, and go about my life. I call him stupid until the thing begins to get so big I don’t have much of a choice. I was not having that thing pop in my sleep, and realistically I’m too clumsy not to bump it on something and randomly (and disgustingly) pop it unexpectedly.

Gross.

I pop it, and it’s not really anything special. I throw some bacitracin on it, and call it a day. The next day it’s tender, but not abnormal, and I keep it open so it can heal, but I’m careful to keep it clean, or so I thought. The next few days are a blur because I wasn’t feeling well in general, and I had an allergist appointment. What I do remember is looking at the spot where the blister had been, and being in denial that it was infected…until the day I went to the allergist, when I realized it was scabbing over pus filled portions, and literally creating an abscess.

Double gross.

I went from my allergist to my primary care doctor, who promptly told me I was correct, and it was definitely infected. He also informed me that autoimmune blistering is an actual thing. My body literally attacked the layers of my skin, creating a blister because it just destroyed a section on my hand. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics, but by the next day it was worse. Way worse. The night I’d gotten antibiotics it had worsened to the point where I had a thin layer of skin covering what was undoubtedly my tendon.

You shouldn’t be able to watch your tendons move, and while it was disturbing, I will admit it was kind of cool. Still, I don’t recommend it.

My doctor calls after I take another dose of the antibiotics that were already making me feel like total hell. Apparently I have a multi-drug resistant staph-infection, and while it isn’t MRSA, it doesn’t matter, because I’m allergic to all drugs ending in -cillin. Yay. We’ve established it’s getting rapidly worse, because I’m taking a boatload of immune suppressing drugs, even though they’re not doing a great job at treating my Behcet’s anyhow. Fantastic universe. So I’m sent to the ER.

The ER wasn’t too busy because of the time of day I went in. They ended up wanting an MRI because there was a chance my joint and tendon were infected, but thankfully they weren’t. That would have meant being admitted and going on IV drugs for a few days. I was given an IV push of an antibiotic (but honestly can’t remember the name), and send home on Keflex. I hate Keflex because of the nausea it  causes, but I don’t have much of a choice because of my allergies. Another issue I have with Keflex is kind of weird. It makes me really drowsy, and actually gives me a fever. Not a high fever, but around 100-101, which also makes me feel crappy.

If that weren’t enough, I’ve been dealing with stress over finances, namely insurance funds, and coming up with the money for moving and medical equipment. Life should be easier when I have less rent to pay, but saving up the money to pay insurance installments three months at a time, is going to be really hard. This rough patch also doesn’t help.

Can we address the reality that my body is flaring, and there is a decent chance that the stress made it worse…and my body blistered itself. 

I’m still sort of in awe that a body is capable of doing something like that. I think most of us who deal with autoimmune issues, have moments where we’re shocked at the destructive power of our own bodies. I’ve witnessed countless things, including losing the ability to move because of hyperactive reflexes, but somehow this one blister was more intense for me. I think there was something about being able to actually see with my eyes what my body was capable of. It was as though I was in some long cold war, and then someone dropped the first bomb. I was aware I was in a flare, I knew what was going on inside of my body, but seeing it externally was a whole new game. I’ve got an oral ulcer, and a few other external signs I’m flaring, but there was something about a blister that just felt different.

My roommate has reminded me to relax, that he’s handling the movers and the moving fees, but I’ve never had to rely so much on others, and it’s definitely taking it’s toll. For now I guess it’s all I can do. IVIG can’t come fast enough.

Flare City – Autoimmune Blister and Staph Infection

Vitamin Infusions, Movie Plans, Poops (Literally Talking About Poops)

So I was able to get my next round of vitamins today, which was good because I was seriously dragging. I went to bed last night at 7pm, was asleep before 8:30, and could have slept longer this morning had my dogs not made it clear that they were ready to get up. Still, I got a solid 12 hours or so. I had planned on seeing a matinee today, Star Wars, but still felt too sluggish to make it. (My infusion was at 11:30, and the movie started at 3:40. I had hoped, well let’s be blunt, that I would need to poop after the infusion. Sadly, I didn’t get that urge, which was something I had gotten the last two times.

Living life chronically constipated, kind of really sucks.

I used to have issues with diarrhea, and I remember always thinking anything had to be better than running to the bathroom all the time. Then I learned how much not being able to go, seriously sucked. Turns out when you’re constipated, but can only form a partial obstruction, you get diarrhea around the backed up stool. You don’t know fun, until you have the pain of severe constipation, with all the added horror of having diarrhea (sometimes even in your pants.)

We haven’t found a good option for handling this, because I’m a walking contraindication to conventional treatments, and a walking example of all things that can cause diarrhea. When someone can drink half a bottle of Miralax, and not go to the bathroom, you know there is a problem. I recognize that moving more would make me go easier, but I cannot move as much as required because I’m so fatigued and nauseas. Lately I’ve decided the gas is worth it, if it gets things moving, and I’ve started eating dairy. Dairy, for whatever reason, seems to aggravate whatever is causing the GI bleeding.

So, do I want to bleed but go, potentially bleed but not go, or not bleed but definitely not go?

Life is fun.

Back to the movie…with my luck I’ll go, but then suddenly get the urge to poop. This isn’t an easy thing to deal with. First, let’s say I do actually have to go. Going in public isn’t easy for me, nor is going after being stopped up. There is also the risk that the urge doesn’t result in actually going, but does cause bleeding. Biggest issue, for me, is that I’d be buying a ticket, and missing some of the movie. This is Star Wars, and I am a nerd. The only reason I haven’t seen it yet was because of how sick I was feeling, and how sick people in general have been. I can’t imagine sitting through an entire movie with a mask on, so I had to wait.

Tonight, at 7 or 10pm. I’m not being hard on myself, though. I fatigue, nausea, or pain, become too much, then I’ll see if I can see it tomorrow. This is an autoimmune disease. My body is attacking itself (or so they theorize anyhow). How I handle it is how I handle it, because my disease is my disease. What works for me, may work for others, but ultimately each of us needs to figure out what our treatment plan looks like.

During chemotherapy I explained to my mother, that chemo patients are all different. Even two people receiving the same drugs, can have different sets of symptoms. I lost my hair, largely because I was severely malnourished prior to chemotherapy, and I had tapered off very high doses of steroids. The combination caused hair loss, including bald patches, ultimately causing me to decide to shave my head. I also had major issues with nausea. This was likely because I had severe nausea prior to chemotherapy, and had begun to eat different foods during chemotherapy. I also was much more susceptible to the drug than we had expected. I ended up with very low red blood cell counts, platelets, white cells, everything. The doctors were floored, and I was given less of the drug during my next infusion. I had been expected to get an increased dose, but that would never need to happen.

So hopefully I wil have more energy, less nausea, and less GI pain. Hopefully I will go see a movie that I have been waiting weeks to see. Hopefully I will be in a relatively empty theater, so I don’t need to wear a mask the entire time. Hopefully the people working won’t give me grief over my hot water bottle, so I can hopefully get abdominal relief, and back pain relief, through the duration of the film.

May 2018 is the year of “hopefully,” and I’m okay with that.

I told myself 2017 would be the year of treatments, and remission. I set myself up for a let down. So, while I’m hopeful that IVIG will provide me with good results, and less side effects, I recognize that nothing is 100% certain. I can have hope, without losing all rational thinking. Hopefully IVIG will work, and hopefully I’ll need less assistive devices. Hopefully I can get back to working. Hopefully I can throw myself into self improvement, and socialization.

Tonight it starts with hopefully seeing a movie. Tomorrow is another day.

Vitamin Infusions, Movie Plans, Poops (Literally Talking About Poops)

Wheelchair Waiting

In my brain there is a list of things I have to get done. In my body there is a list of system failures that prevent me from doing the things I need to do. Us sick folks tend to triage our lives, but not all of us are aware that we’re even doing it. I put school, the dogs, and anyone who needs me, first. My social life has died a slow death over the last few years. It started with a bad relationship, then my illnesses slowly but surely made it harder and harder to socialize.

When my falling and fatigue became really bad, and the doctors started discussing mobility assistance beyond my walker, I was angry. I didn’t want to be “the girl in a wheelchair.” I also didn’t want to have to explain to people why I was in a wheelchair when I could walk. I used to take my dog down to the waterfront, and back. It was a 20-30 minute walk each way, and now I can’t go more than a block. Some days a block requires 2-3 breaks to complete.

Did I want mobility or anonymity? I could either be the girl who takes her dog to the waterfront, or someone nobody knows, because I don’t bother to leave the house. 

Today I’ve made peace with it, even with people who may ask why I have it. I know people and places that I used to commute to on foot. Now I’m waiting for the free ride system to come around, or I’m paying for ride sharing apps. I’d much rather explain that I traversed the distance in my chair, so that I could do something like go to a movie, and walk the mall afterwards, or even go putt putt golfing. There will still be days when I simply don’t have the energy to do anything, but at least with the chair I would be saving energy as often as possible.

I keep thinking about my thesis course that starts in a month. I’ll have to be on campus once per week for 2+ months. Once I have the chair, I’m not worried about it. As it stands right now, I am worried. Walking to and from the bus stop, is a challenge. The last time I did it, I started to pass out during class, and had to leave early. The chair, as constraining as it may seem, actually gives me more freedom.

Today that’s all I can think about. I want to go see a movie, but I simply can’t muster up the energy. The plan is to go see it tomorrow after I get my vitamin infusions. (Barring of course, any major allergic reactions!) I still can’t wait for IVIG, either. I hate throwing all of my hope on one treatment option, but it’s really all we have left, so it’s what I would like to start doing as soon as we can.

Head up.

Chin up.

Positivity.

Wheelchair Waiting

Changing Your Expectations and Being Okay with It

I have had to change so many of my expectations over the last few years, and you would think it would get less painful each time…but it doesn’t. When my ex-husband and I separated, it was a relief. It wasn’t a good marriage, despite being a long marriage, and the freedom from the constant verbal and emotional tirades was beyond amazing. My health had momentarily improved, leading me to believe that I would be so much better physically, because I had freed myself emotionally. It was partially true. My C-PTSD symptoms did decrease, to the point where my medications could be removed, but my Behcet’s didn’t get the notice.

Denial was my first mistake. I refused to accept that the symptoms I was having were Behcet’s related. Wasn’t I always uncoordinated? Didn’t I always have stomach issues? Finances were a mess because I’d blown my knee out, so the stress was of course causing me some physical distress. I made so many excuses for so many obvious signs of flaring, that I was eventually sitting in the medical marijuana office, weighing in at 120 pounds, all 5’10” of me. I got my medical license to smoke, and for the first time ever, tried marijuana. At that point I was struggling to keep down water.

My second mistake was over optimism. Let me explain this further. Being optimistic is wonderful. You need to be positive to stay on track and fight your chronic illnesses. Being overly optimistic, though, prevents you from planning realistically. I kept telling myself every treatment change would work. When it didn’t, I just kept pushing forward. I pushed my body to the limit because I was still in denial. I had a boss prior to getting sicker, who was into positive thinking so seriously, that we literally couldn’t express any negative feelings. I clung to the idea even after leaving the job.

The final mistake was combining mistakes one and two, with lying. I lied to my family. I lied to my friends. I told people I was fine, and when they saw me, they were floored by how not fine I was. By the point I was going to NYU, where they would recommend Remicade and if that didn’t work, Cytoxan, I had been hospitalized for over a week, and was barely able to walk with a walker.

Denial, overly optimistic thinking, and lying to yourself and others, is not going to help you.

I still believe there will be a day when my illness doesn’t impact me day to day, because I’ll have treatments and tools at my disposal, but I am still coming to terms with that reality. Some days I will need my wheelchair. I will likely need IVIG regularly, for quite some time, if not indefinitely. Remission is out of the question, but given how aggressive my case has been, it isn’t likely.

And that’s okay.

That may sound like over optimism again, but it isn’t. I will adjust my life as needed, and with time, I will be able to find things that I can enjoy and do with whatever my body is capable of. I don’t know if anyone will ever be able to love me enough to live with me and commit to me, and while the thought of never settling down and actually living with someone hurts, I do know that it’s a possibility. I also know that there are people out there with chronic illnesses who have found partners, so it isn’t impossible. The first step, though, is accepting myself, and my body, for what it is.

My schooling changed. My potential career paths changed. It hurts. I wanted to be a clinical laboratory scientist more than anything, and I may not be able to ever pursue that path because of my ataxia. What I have found, though, is clinical study associate positions, and they’re actually really interesting. To be honest, I should have gotten my MPH (Master’s of Public Health), but I wasn’t as sick when I committed to the forensic program. Ultimately I can still get certificates for clinical study administration, and because of my undergraduate and different graduate degree, I could make a case that I would be an excellent advisor. I’ve literally studied the lab piece of things, and the investigative side of forensics, I am the perfect person to put together official studies that pair the work that is seen, with the behind the scenes work.

I have literally discovered a career I never knew existed, and it’s in demand where I live. I can also do it in a wheelchair, and even handle some administrative tasks from home.

Currently I’m not in a position to work, but I want to be working someday, and this career field gives me hope. Regardless I love the idea. I could also look into PhD programs with my undergraduate and graduate school, because they have agreements with certain degree programs, where they pay for your PhD if you give them 5 years of your time as a professor. I would actually enjoy teaching college students, and the flexibility of the potential online classes is amazing. Even if I had to do in person instruction, the ability to do it in a wheelchair also makes it a viable option.

Mostly it’s about recognizing that I even have options.

You may not be doing what you thought you’d be doing, but very few people in their 30’s are where they thought they’d be in their teens or even early 20’s. The friends I think that have it all, don’t really all have it all. I come from a small town and most of my friends have gotten married and had kids, but there are others like myself, who got married young and then got divorced. I’m glad I didn’t have kids with my ex-husband, because we would never have been able to peacefully coparent. I also wouldn’t be able to focus on getting myself well, if I had children to look after.

I am not where I want to be, but I am still here, and I still have the opportunity to move in a variety of directions. I just need to be open to the options that I have.

Changing Your Expectations and Being Okay with It

First Round of IV Vitamins, and the Unemployment/Disability Situation

Yesterday, on the 23rd, I got my first infusion of fluids vitamins, and amino acids. It wasn’t pleasant, but mostly because I was still so sick going into the appointment. Basically I’m still having bleeding issues, most likely from my colon, and lower intestines. I’m also having a lot of nausea courtesy of the gastroparesis. I find myself in this horrible situation where, if my stomach and upper intestines empty, they hit the lower intestines where the ulcerations are. So the nausea fades momentarily, only to return as the pain of the food and drink moving through me hits the ulcers. The doctors are fairly sure some of the ulcers were deep, and created blood clot like scabs that are coming off when I feel like I have to go to the bathroom. It’s super fun…

Anyhow, I pulled myself up off the bathroom floor (literally) and went in for the infusion. I was pleasantly surprised when the nurse hit a vein on the first try. (I had forced myself to drink and keep down liquids, though it had left me violently nauseated.) She warned me that the infusion would taste funny, like a Flintstone vitamin. Turns out it tasted exactly like one, but not the fun fruity part…the gross after taste part. This would have been manageable had I brought mints or something, but I hadn’t. It also would have been manageable if I weren’t already trying to avoid throwing up. Then there was the woman who seemed determined to talk to me.

I am pale, obviously in pain, and she just kept talking…

I’m not sure what we talked about. I grunted responses periodically, but spent most of the time checking out her adorable dog. Then something fun happened. About halfway through the bag I thought I was dying. I felt hot flashes, the nausea peaked, and I was pretty convinced I was going to faint or have a seizure. Then, a little while later, it all went away. I told myself it was just the Zofran I had taken prior to the infusion…but I kept feeling less horrendous. Now, don’t get me wrong, the damn thing still tasted awful, but I didn’t feel as awful. 3/4 of the way through the infusion, I was actually sitting up in the chair instead of half curled over. As it finished I had to admit, I felt a lot better, just from the fluids. The vitamins were much needed, but I am sure they haven’t done much just yet. The nurses and nutritionist had all said it would take several regular infusions before I felt a lasting benefit from the vitamins and amino acids. As I’m getting up to leave, talkative lady addresses me and the nurse.

“You look less dead.” Then to the nurse, “Doesn’t she look a lot less dead?”

I mean I’d rather look totally alive, but I’ll take less dead I suppose. My stomach still hasn’t been doing well, but that’s just the nature of the situation. My upper GI doesn’t want to move at all, while the lower GI is a mess of ulcerations and blood. Happy holidays I suppose.

Hopefully I can get an update on my wheelchair after the holiday. I’m bummed that I’ll have to start paying copayments and whatnot, given my insurance year will begin again, but I’m hoping I won’t have to pay it all at once with the wheelchair. That would definitely require me to sell everything I own. I’m also excited to start IVIG. I’m crossing my fingers for some good news regarding my disability as well.

For a long time I was opposed to the idea of disability. I want to work. Not working leaves me unfulfilled. It isn’t even about finances, though I’m definitely struggling financially. Working has always given me a sense of pride and purpose. Even the smallest job made me feel like I was contributing in some way. Without working I feel sort of useless. I know I couldn’t work the way things are right now. As much as I may want to work, I just don’t know day to day how I’ll feel. Plus there are the medical treatments. We’re talking about IV infusions 2x per week, if insurance will cover it, then IVIG which will be given over a period of two days. From what I’ve read IVIG is done every 4-6 weeks. If it lines up with IV nutrition appointments, I could be spending 4 out of 5 days in medical offices one week per month. I’d still be spending two days per week in medical offices anyhow. Once we’re able, we’ll wean me to an IV per week, but ultimately we can’t go lower than that since I really need the fluids.

This is the thing people don’t seem to grasp about disability, and those of us who are chronically ill. We fight hard to get to a baseline that is somewhat close to that of a healthy person. Most of us won’t ever feel as healthy as a healthy person, but we can fight hard to become functional enough to basically pass as healthy. Getting to that point takes a lot of effort and time though. In my instance we’re talking several IV treatments, a ton of oral medications, and carefully orchestrated drinks and snacks. Even with all of that, I could wake up and feel miserable. If you look at my IV schedule alone, it become a scheduling nightmare. Toss in the fact my body doesn’t operate well in the mornings, and that I could randomly have a few bad days without warning, and you get someone who really doesn’t have the ability to work right now.

I am not defined by my illness, however, I am limited by it. For a long time I lied to myself, and swore that Behcet’s and the things it has caused like gastroparesis and autonomic neuropathy, would never limit me. I was determined to live the life I wanted, despite the symptoms. As I pushed myself, I got sicker and sicker. Then denial kicked in. I told myself that I was in a flare, and that once the flare was over, I could get back to living a normal life. Denial isn’t helpful. I hit a point where I had to acknowledge that some of the things I wanted to do, I couldn’t do, because of my chronic illnesses, and that’s okay.

Yes, you read that right folks, it’s okay to accept that your disease limits you…as long as you don’t let it define the entirety of your being.

I am chronically ill. I may have to use my wheelchair at times. I cannot work. My diet is an absolute wreck, and even when I do follow the doctor’s advice, I can’t always succeed. The ER team knows me. Professors have to allow me extra time should I require it. These are all facts of life for me. I accept it, and I pivot because of it.

Find something else that you love, and know that limitations are not forever, but even the ones that do stick around don’t change who you are as a person. 

Life is what it is, and sometimes we can’t wrap our heads around having to change our plans, but we also can find ourselves trying something new that we hadn’t even thought of before. We find new passions, new paths, and we go with it.

So go with it. 

First Round of IV Vitamins, and the Unemployment/Disability Situation

Operation Relocation?

**Disclaimer: I made a gastroparesis blunder today and overestimated the capacity of my system. Therefore, due to extreme nausea, this blog is being written under the influence of medicinal marijuana. I doubt I’ll edit it before posting. Hopefully my point is made.**

One of the harder parts about being chronically ill, is the financial strain. Even with good insurance, the medical bills pile up. Maybe your main plan has a low catastrophic cap, but what about vision and dental? In my case there is also the reality that I’m the only one that is capable of bringing money into the home. Yes, I get alimony, but along with the finalization of my divorce, comes the reality that I’ll have to pay to keep insurance, and that excludes vision and dental.

Inhale.

The reality of my current state is this…working isn’t possible. Lately walking the dog around the block has been a victory. That victory is short lived because walking the dog wasn’t the only task for the day, and now I’m exhausted. I’ve been waiting on disability, but could still have to wait over a year for my court date. What is a person supposed to do when they’re disabled, but can’t get disability?

I have a credit card that was maxed out between my knee surgery, and chemo. I’ve reached the very end of the road when it comes to pretending you’ve got everything under control.

People can tell I’m faking.

Relocation has become a hot topic, because where I currently live (San Diego) has a high cost of living. I, personally, don’t feel like I have a ton of other options. I have a large service dog, a small retired service dog, and no income aside from alimony. There is nothing in San Diego I can afford, and not many roommates are willing to tolerate the dogs. Family has implored me to move back east, but for a variety of reasons, including all that snow, I’m not sure that would be a responsible choice.

Recently I was offered the chance to live in my aunt’s condo, rent free, in Florida, from May through November. My first thought surrounded the word “free,” but the following thoughts were full of pros and cons. I have made a list, on my whiteboard, and they are exactly even as of right now. Medically there is the fact I’d have to find all new doctors, comfortable with Behcet’s, and then find new ones again because I’d only be there for six months…

Okay, enough about me.

I’m not the only person who faces financial stress because they’re chronically ill. How many homeless people have you met with severe mental or physical disabilities? They didn’t just decide to live outside one day. Society needs to do a better job of helping those who cannot reliably work. I could get a job tomorrow, but I would lose it by next week. I don’t know what days I can eat and what days I can’t. I don’t know when I’ll have severe pain, or nausea, and be unable to make it into work. This is something most of us “sick” folks deal with.

My friend was lucky, she worked for a grocery chain that let her work when she was well, and accepted her absences when she was gone. She didn’t make much, but it made her feel good to be working. When you’re not working, it can become depressing, You want to be contributing. So why don’t we have something for the chronically ill that allows them to work when they’re able, and receive disability benefits regardless?

The assumption is that tons of people abuse the system, and file for disability or other benefits because they’re lazy. Maybe some do…but the process of being approved for disability is beyond broken. I have friends who have been in the system for 3-4 years, while they have bones literally fusing their spines and ribcages. This friend would still work on good days, because she likes feeling fulfilled. That doesn’t mean she isn’t disabled.

Think about it like this: you have a system designed to provide financial assistance to people who are unable to work do to a disability. The reality is that some of those people would work when they felt physically able, but the amount of work they would be able to do would never be enough to provide for them financially. So, instead of working, they wait for their disability benefits. The limited funds must be carefully regulated, so they wait a long time. What if the government realized that those of us who cannot work enough to financially provide for ourselves or our families, could still work in some capacity? Couldn’t we have the chance to work within the disability system itself?

I am great at office work. I am amazing when it comes to organization and filing. You need a friendly face to greet guest at reception? That person would be me. It just may only be me for 2-4 hours at a time. It also may only be me a day or so per week, with gaps in between. I want to contribute, I want to be part of something bigger and better than sitting at home, or at the doctors office. I think most of us who are chronically ill, want to still have a purpose that we pursue.

Some have been lucky to have family and friends to stay with during their financially challenging times, and I’m not saying this as a slight to my friends or family, it’s just something worth noting. There are people who, for whatever reason, rely on themselves during the challenging times, and it’s definitely an anxious thing.

Social programs need to step it up, because they could be so much more, and they could help so many more people. In the meantime I’ll just be figuring out whether it’s time to relocate. It isn’t an easy decision, sick or not, and it’s something that is really weighing on my mind.

Operation Relocation?