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Balancing a chronic illness is like a full-time job…on top of my full-time job. There are good days and bad days with anything, but learning how to manage and overcome a chronic illness on my own has been life-changing.

I definitely learned patience through the diagnosis process of 5 years, and I was fortunate to have my family’s strength through those years. It was not easy wondering what was going on with my body, not knowing how to control the pain. That period of time, in and out of the hospitals, seeing numerous doctors with all different opinions, was one of the most difficult times of my life. And we finally have pinpointed the underlying issues, so now comes the daily management of this chronic illness in my life.

Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis as a young woman, I am learning how to manage the pain, curb the frustration and figure out the paperwork that all goes along with the illness.

Almost every week I am managing the various medications and vitamins I have to take, including filling prescriptions, reordering supplements, managing my medical budgets, and calling insurance companies about coverage and pre-authorizations.  With almost 10 major prescriptions and over 20 supplements and minerals to manage, it can be quite time consuming.  I feel like there should be automatic reorders for these things.  And on top of refilling these prescriptions, many times I end up on the phone with either the pharmacy or the insurance company fighting for my rights as a patient.

And then there are the monthly doctors appointments and blood draws to squeeze into my busy work schedule, since they are only open during business hours of course. (Luckily, I have an understanding boss!) I also like to get several opinions on treatment options for my pain management, including more more natural medical opinions. Just recently, the traditional route of treating the herniated disk in my spine is not cutting it.  So I saw a few other chiropractors and spinal specialists about the situation. I received a variety of opinions, from spinal surgery, to laser therapy, to acupuncture. All of these opinions and decisions about my body take time and can often be emotionally draining, especially considering my lack of budget and how insurance companies are a pain.

But the most frustrating part of this whole chronic illness management is the pain. It is the part that gets the least attention, unfortunately, with everything else that I have to manage on a daily basis.  But it is definitely the most debilitating.  It is difficult for most people to understand or empathize with the type of chronic pain that one goes through with RA, especially because I don’t necessarily look different from when I was healthy 7 years ago. Basically, the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. That includes all of the medications, medical opinions and paperwork that goes along with being sick.  But I know that in the past 7 years of fighting this chronic illness, I have learned that I can only do this on my own.  Yes, I have amazing support from my family and friends, but I ultimately have to gather the strength and the positive attitude to keep going – each day I have to make that choice to get out of bed and be stronger than my illness.

I’m not going to lie, I have my days where I feel like most people who are struggling to fight a chronic illness, and I feel a loss of a life I once knew. How I wouldn’t give anything to go back to not being in pain.  But I keep reminding myself that I can do this, on my own, one day at a time, and I’m only getting stronger in the process.