Friday, October 14, 2016

Facing Forward: Tracy

Facing Forward is a series that shares the lives of people living with arthritis and other invisible chronic illnesses. The goal of the series is to see how we are similar and how we are different - and to remind us to keep moving forward because we aren't alone!

Name: Tracy
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Diagnoses: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Endometriosis
Age at Diagnosis: Endometriosis at 28yrs (had symptoms for 12 years prior,) Rheumatoid Arthritis at 41yrs, and Fibromyalgia at 43yrs (secondary to RA)

How are you currently treating your condition?
Methotrexate and Cimzia injections for the RA. I'm having my 7th excision surgery for the endometriosis next month. I use anti-inflammatories and painkillers or general pain management. I'm a qualified Nutritional Therapist so good diet is a big part of maintaining my health. I also swim and I'm slowly starting to reintroduce yoga and pilates after a long absence.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
The biggest challenge I faced since being diagnosed with endometriosis was infertility. I lost 3 pregnancies and had repeated IVF failures. I was so lucky to have my beautiful daughter after a long journey and repeated fertility treatments in 3 different countries. The pregnancy and birth were plagued with difficulty and I then developed RA when she was only 12 weeks old. I'm a single mum, and without question, parenting alone has been the biggest challenge I've faced since my RA and fibro diagnoses. My daughter is 3.5 now but I still find acceptance a huge challenge, accepting my limitations - I still struggle with the consequences of pushing myself too hard some days.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for managing everyday tasks?
1) Go slow. Since developing RA I’ve become so clumsy and have lost both strength and sensitivity in my hands. If I don’t move slowly and concentrate I bump into things, drop / break / spill things etc. 2) Prioritize – each day I’ll check my ‘to do’ list and pick the top 1 or 2 things that absolutely need to be done and leave everything else. Sometimes this may only include the most basic tasks. 3) Pace myself, even on the good days. I am still learning this the hard way! It’s so tempting to keep going on those days when I feel like I’ve got some of my old energy back but the consequences are always severe and far outweigh any benefit. 4) Don’t expect people who don’t have chronic illness to understand what you’re going through. They can’t. It’s an unrealistic expectation, it’s not fair on them and it’s not fair on you. Compassion and empathy are what we can reasonably ask for, and these are things we can also return.

How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
By remembering how lucky I am to have my daughter – I could be going through all of this without her and it would be so much worse if she wasn’t here. She’s the reason I get up every day. Even though some days are very difficult, I push on because I want to be strong for her and be the best mother I can. I also believe that, to some extent, I can recover the ‘old me’, maybe not the same version or with all the bells and whistles I once had, but I continue to hope that I will regain my energy, and some other aspects of well-being, that are only a memory at the moment.

If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
It will get worse before it gets better but hang in there because it does eventually get a little easier, and don’t ever doubt that you have what it takes to get through it. You will adapt. Be kinder to yourself.

Do you have a blog you would like to share?
I haven’t started writing yet but plan to soon at Chronic Mama.

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