By Alyssa Rosengard
Since December, life has been one crisis after another. I found myself caring for my elderly dog, Sophia, a Pekinese/Dachshund mutt we adopted from the shelter, who at age 14 could no longer hear and could barely see. At the end, she was using the bathroom inside the house, and her tail no longer wagged. My husband and I took our time, but we decided she had no quality of life anymore and had to go to the vet to be put to sleep. I do not think two adults could have made bigger fools of themselves crying loudly and uncontrollably at our lovely vet's office.
Directly after my Sophia's death, my 97-year-old "Bubby" had a second mild heart attack. She lost her will to live, and I went to New Jersey to sit vigil with my mom, sister and assorted family members and friends. While sitting vigil, I was exposed to a hospital setting where many of the elderly there were sick. I would never trade the time I had with my Bubby; she was my mentor, second mother and home to me, but having a primary immune disorder means trying to avoid places and people who are at risk for infection. I, of course, contracted pneumonia and a stomach virus after the visit. Did I regret the time I spent saying goodbye to my grandmother? Not at all, not even for a second! There are times in life to push through the risk of illness and get on with living. But then there are times when we ignore symptoms from our body that tell us to stop, seek out medical help and heal.
Before my grandmother's funeral, I developed signs that I had fallen out of remission from my autoimmune bleeding disorder known as ITP. Due to the chaos of the last couple of months, I had my head in the sand. There was blood in my urine, and I had unexplained black and blue marks on my body - two glaring warning signs that something was wrong. I felt I had no time to heed these warnings and went into ignorance mode. I ignored the warning signs that I was seriously ill again. In my defense, I had been in remission for the last 12 years, but I should have contacted my oncologist. Instead, I waited until I got back the next week after the mourning period.
I got back into my routine over a week after the funeral and waited for my preset appointment for intravenous immune globulin (IVIG). That's when my oncologist said: "Your blood platelets have dropped, and you are at hemorrhaging risk again. What happened?" What happened indeed? Life happened, traumatic events happened, and I chose to ignore the health signs.
After two months of chemo and steroids, I have completed treatment. I am no longer a bleeding risk. My blood platelets have normalized for now. I can only hope I am in remission again.
There are times during chronic illness when we are at risk of infection and have little choice but to push through stressful and possibly unsafe situations. Then there are times when we ignore warning signs because we are overemotional or distraught over what life throws at us. Unfortunately, being chronically ill, we have to be vigilant all the time, 24/7. Our bodies will tell us when it is time to stop pushing through and visit our doctors, because sometimes our lives hang in the balance.
Be well and be vigilant. We only have one life.