by Tammie Allegro
I never anticipated that at age 37 I would be experiencing hot flashes and severe nausea. I would have figured I had a few years before I went through “the change.” Turns out, though, I am not going through menopause. I am actually trying a new medication that has some less-than-pleasant side effects. So far, I have been able to power through most of them, and I know that I am fortunate because the list of possible side effects is pretty long. So I’m trying to look at the bright side and be grateful knowing it could be worse.
This experience has led me to ask myself how I can be better about looking on the bright side of things. While researching my recent diagnosis, I read so many terrible stories about people who experienced years of misdiagnosis and limited family support due to lack of knowledge and understanding. And, again, I find myself feeling fortunate that I received a diagnosis after only suffering for three years. I have some family members who seem to think I am faking it, but most everyone else has been supportive and loving.
Another aspect of seeing the bright side came from being grateful that medication even exists to treat what I am going through. There are so many cases where a diagnosis would mean certain death or, at least, severe disability. So, I look at this medicine as a new start. I can live the life I thought I would, with some modifications. I may never run a marathon and be a size zero, but I can continue to work at a job I love and spend quality time with my daughters.
There are a range of side effects with all therapies - everything from headaches to hot flashes, extreme nausea and fatigue. And, there are side effects with intravenous immune globulin therapy that are much more difficult to deal with. However, even those really tough side effects stand as a reminder that the person receiving the infusion is being treated, and is being given the chance to spend a little more time with a loved one or even getting laundry done. For me, each thing I accomplish is a daily reminder that the medicine is working and the side effects are worth it. This isn’t to say that I love the side effects, but rather I accept that with the treatment I’m receiving, it is a package deal.
When I was a healthy adult, I took so much for granted. I used to think that I would feel young forever. That I would be able to always live life to the fullest and always be on the move. Well, my body doesn’t feel young anymore, but my heart and mind do. As for living life to the fullest, I think that is all about perception. If I am doing everything I can with the tools life has provided me, then I will be happy with the life I have been given - even if it isn’t the one I planned. And on the bright side, each time I have a hot flash, I remind myself that it means my medicine is working.