Get Ready to Fight.

Years ago I sat in a doctor’s office, newly diagnosed with POTS, and the doctor suggested I get a hobby. He told me I would likely be sick for the rest of my life and should find something relaxing that I enjoy to keep me from becoming depressed. I accepted this and moved forward. Some time later when I was diagnosed with EDS, a doctor noticed the cross necklace around my neck and suggested that praying would bring me some comfort. Neither of those doctors were wrong. Blogging has given me an outlet to share my story and find friends who understand. My faith has certainly encouraged me and allowed me to feel more whole in spite of illness. However, both of those statements, said to me as an attempt to encourage, felt like I had no choice but to accept being sick.

For years, I worked to accept being sick- to my own detriment. I ate what I wanted, because no amount of kale would heal me. I gave up on exercise, because planking wouldn’t fix my broken collagen. I prayed- but not really for myself. I had no hope of feeling better and didn’t expect that God would change my body at a cellular level. I was resigned to live this way.

Then, I found out I have a BRCA2 gene mutation. (Here’s and old post where I explain more about BRCA2- Statistically, I have an 86% chance of developing breast cancer between the ages of 30-50. EIGHTY-SIX PERCENT. I can’t even explain how much that statistic scares me. The BRCA world, however, is a little different than the chronic illness world. Doctors immediately began telling me what I could do to have proper surveillance to detect any possible cancer growth as quickly as possible. When you’re diagnosed with BRCA, your world becomes all about avoiding the worst-case scenario. It’s a world of trying to prevent- not cope.

This mind set of trying to prevent the worst case scenario rather than wait for it and cope has changed my life. I am having twice yearly check ups, and I have challenged myself to live the healthiest lifestyle I can manage. Realizing the chance that I could eventually have to fight cancer, I have worked to get my body in the best possible shape for a fight. I’m, of course, very hopeful that cancer will never be my reality. I am doing everything I can to limit sugars and soy in my diet- things that are known for encouraging tumor growth. But, more importantly, I’m choosing to do my best- every single day. I go on gym dates with Joe most weekdays. I meal prep so that we always have healthy choices available. I stopped buying chips and cookies. If I have a junk food craving, I have to make it myself- which is typically more trouble than it’s worth.

If I could change anything about my first years with chronic illness, I would change the mind set of resignation. Of course, it was important to rest and listen to my body. However, it was just as important that I get in “fighting shape” to fight against those diagnosed illnesses. Do I still have POTS and EDS? Of course. However, I’m getting stronger. My outlook is brighter. I am far more capable of dealing with symptoms than I was years ago when I was resigned to them.

I wish when I was first received chronic diagnoses, that my doctors would have suggested I get in “fighting shape.” I wish when we had the conversation about the risks of aneurysms and ruptures we had also talked about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. I wish that the discussion of joint dislocations was countered by a discussion about joint strengthening. I am not saying my doctors got it wrong. If anything, I’m admitting that I didn’t take my health as seriously as I should have. However, dear friend, I am saying that regardless of your diagnosis (or even lack of diagnosis) it’s important to keep your body in fighting shape. If you don’t know where to start, that’s okay. Start small. Cut out one soft drink a day. Commit to doing exercises while lying in bed. Use a pedal exerciser when you’re watching tv. Do something for YOU. I promise you’re worth it. Your health is worth it. And the fight, whatever your fight is, is going to demand it.

Peace, love, and health, friends.

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