The Long and Winding Road
It has been a while since I have had the energy, motivation, and time to set foot on this blog. If you have followed along so far, you know that I have been presented with some major medical challenges. Ironically, this made my mission this year almost impossible (see previous post). Trying to teach middle school while battling severe anemia which caused incredible fatigue and shortness of breath was no small feat. I gave it my all and tried to keep up my enthusiasm and standards both for myself and my students. Thanks to my husband who drove me to and from work every day and did everything else for us, I managed to pull it off but not without running into a lot of bumps, potholes, and detours along the way. Eventually, there came a point where I realized that trying to make it all the way to June 2017 which was always the original plan for retirement was just not going to be a reality. So, much to the disappointment of my students, their parents, and myself, I planned to end my mission this month. It has turned out to be the best decision ever.
The road to January and retirement has been long with many twists and turns in the form of test after test and procedure after procedure producing few results and no answers. It has been incredibly frustrating to say the least. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, I ended up in the emergency room due to severe pain in my left side. The doctors checked for all the major traumas and found no indication of any. By this time they had been leaning toward some type of autoimmune disease as the cause of all my ailments as they had (thankfully) ruled out everything else. So, even though they could still not specifically identify the disease, they decided I was sick enough to finally prescribe a steroid (Prednisone) to contradict my symptoms. It worked like magic and overnight I began to regain some of my energy and feel a little more like myself again constantly improving every day.
While in emergency, the doctors noticed some inflammation in my lungs. Time for one more procedure — a bronchoscopy where they use a scope to look into your lungs and take a small biopsy. Finally, they found a clue! There was evidence of previous arterial hemorrhaging. After a careful study of the results and a few more blood tests, we finally received a diagnosis two days before Christmas — a strange but welcome gift. I have Microscopic Polyangiitis, a rare autoimmune disease and form of vasculitis which causes inflammation of the blood vessels. It can affect various organs — in my case, my lungs. It can be fatal if ignored. However, there is a reasonable treatment plan which involves four weeks of lengthy infusions, one per week, of a drug that will zap the heck out of my apparently overactive immune system. Of course, the drug (Rituxan) has numerous side effects though many patients report they experience none and the doctors do their best to mediate the potential for any throughout the process. Fortunately, this drug which has only been available for the past couple of years is much less taxing on your body than the one that has previously been used for so long.
Now I am completely and officially retired. While I was not able to complete my mission in its entirety, I know that this alone will contribute to guiding me on my road to recovery. I am scheduled to begin my treatment next week. Assuming all goes well and I don’t have any adverse reactions, I will continue afterwards by tapering off the Prednisone and moving on with a maintenance medication lasting for quite some time. Lifetime management is part of the big picture with remission as a goal.
This may not be the happiest post (though I am happy to finally have some answers), but I felt I needed to wrap up this chapter before beginning the next — Retirement and Plan B which I will talk about in my following posts — all fun and exciting stuff!!
Thanks to so many of you for your care, concern, and support along this rough road. Time to get on to the next! Let’s get moving…