Thursday, May 22, 2008

Honing my Decision-making skills

Everyday, I work at being healthy. These days, it comes a lot easier than it used to, but I still have decisions to make - decisions that can make or break my streak of health and wellness. I know that with each choice I make (be it to nap when I'm tired, sleep in when I've had a turbulent night of rest, or skip an outing when I know there's too much on my plate), I'm doing the right thing for me, for Bun, and for those around me. No one wants a cranky, sickly Sarita on their hands, I can guarantee you that!

Within the past couple of weeks, I've encountered a few scenarios where I had to take a step back and really contemplate my options. While the situations might seem inconsequential to you, for me, they were a true test of my will. In each case, I ended up making a responsible, healthy lifestyle choice, but it was tough not to revert back to my old way of pushing through life regardless of what my body was telling me to do. It's hard to listen to your body, but I've learned that I only suffer for it when I don't. Here are my two most recent examples in which I chose to keep my string of good health going - something worth celebrating!

Scenario #1: About two weeks ago, my mom called to tell me that her cardiologist had admitted her into the hospital due to some unsettling symptoms she was experiencing. The doctor had scheduled her for a heart catherization the following day, and although my dad was away on a week-long fishing trip (in a remote location where his cell phone rarely worked), she insisted that neither my sister nor I fly home for the procedure.

A little background before I continue: My mom had this same routine procedure done five years ago, which resulted in emergency, triple by-pass open heart surgery the same day. To say the least, we didn't take news of this catherization lightly.

After talking with my mom about the details of the procedure, I got off the phone and checked the clock. It wasn't even 4pm - plenty of time for me to catch a flight home later that evening. I was out running errands at the time, so I called Johnny, and he started working on flight arrangements from home while I called my sister to fill her in. Because she has a three-year old at home, she didn't have the luxury of just flying out quite so easily, so we decided that I would go first, and she would follow if necessary. In the meantime, she would try and get a hold of my dad any way she could.

When I arrived home, I was flustered - worried, tired, and unsure of what was in store for my mom. It was nap time, most importantly, and when I'm tired, I can hardly think straight. My eyes get blurry, I feel light-headed, and I find it hard to even put a sentence together. This is what Lupus fatigue is all about, and although I've known for years that I can't fight it, I thought in this instance, I might just have to. I wanted to get to my mom as soon as possible, and I was willing to do anything to make that happen.

But things weren't falling into place the way I wanted them to. First of all, Johnny was reluctant to even look into flights for that same evening. He ran down the list of my options for the following day, one of which would get me there early in the morning for a reasonable fare (although I might miss my mom's procedure.) I pumped him for my options to fly out the same day, thinking that I was going to pull a superwoman stunt and leave that night. In order to do that, though, I would have to pack within minutes, skip my nap, rush off to an airport an hour away, and barely make the flight. I would arrive after midnight, and would then rent a car or take a cab to a local hotel because visiting hours would be over at the hospital. If my mom's procedure was first thing the following morning (i.e. 7am), I'd be up again a few hours later, showered and ready to be by her side.

Those of you with Lupus can imagine the stress and fatigue this kind of situation would bring on...and I don't have to explain what a mess I would have been for a few days afterward. Even when controlled with medication, Lupus feeds on these kinds of situations. The more run down you are, the more vulnerable you are to the effects of the disease. I know this; I even explain it to other people. But when it comes down to it, I don't want to admit it to myself.

Johnny encouraged me to go lie down for a few minutes while I "decided" what to do. Truth was, he wouldn't have allowed me to fly out that night. He knew what I needed more than anything was a good nap, a relaxing dinner, plenty of time to pack, and a good night's rest before tackling the emotional day that was ahead. But because he knows that I'm smart enough and responsible enough (after years of practice) to make the right decision myself, he let me come to my own conclusion.

As I sat in bed, weighing my options, the reality of the situation became clear. If I dashed out that same night, I would have been of no help to my mom. I would have been too busy fighting fatigue, joint pain, maybe even fever and swelling to offer her the emotional support she needed. I would have been struggling to even make it through the day, and what good would that have done her? The point of my trip was to help her, not make matters worse. Having realized my best option, I asked Johnny to book the 8am flight the next morning. Within minutes, I was asleep, pleased with myself for doing the right thing.

Scenario #2: Just last weekend, my sister-in-law, Jen and I drove up to Philadelphia for a bridal shower for our sister-in-law-to-be, Meghan, on Saturday. We'd opted to make the three hour drive the day before, and I had been careful to schedule our driving time so that we would arrive in plenty of time for, you guessed it, my nap. We had a busy weekend ahead of us, and I didn't want to start out with too little sleep or run the risk of feeling crummy during the shower. This was Meghan's weekend - I didn't need to complicate things by having a mini-flare.

Two things happened: first, we hit traffic, and two, I hadn't allowed extra time to stop at the country club first to unload the party stuff from our car. That alone would take us an extra hour, and as I calculated the time, we wouldn't arrive at my other sister-in-law, Katie's house, where we were staying, until hours after my nap time. I was already starting to yawn, and we still had several hours ahead of us. I thought about just pushing through - it was important to get all the stuff unloaded from the car - and it sure would have been easier to just go with the plan in place. But in the back of my mind, I knew that wasn't the right thing to do. If I didn't get enough rest today and tonight, who knows what tomorrow (the shower day) would have been like. I owed it to my family to be there in good spirits, so I chose to make it happen.

I mentioned the problem to Jen who was driving, and we starting brainstorming. She insisted that she drop me off at the house to take a nap while she drove back across town to drop off the stuff. That extra step would take her an additional hour at least, and would take her away from spending time with Katie and our two nieces (who might not understand if she walked in the door just to turn around and leave again.) We thought about having my mother-in-law, Maureen, meet us at the country club where I would drop off Jen and take the car up to Katie's house to take a nap while they unloaded the stuff. While that would have worked, because Maureen could have then driven Jen up to Katie's, I was already tired and a little bleary-eyed, and didn't think it was safe for me to drive to Katie's house on my own. (I'm telling you - Lupus fatigue can be pretty scary stuff!) After throwing out option after option (and reconsidering a change in plans at all), we came up with a rock-solid idea. We would make an unexpected stop at my mother-in-law's house, which wasn't more than 10 minutes from the country club. I would take a nap at her house while she and Jen ran over to the club, unloaded the stuff, came back, and then we would drive up to Katie's after that. As it turned out, it worked perfectly! Maureen was more than willing to let us make a "pit" stop, Katie understood that we would be later than expected, and Jen made it possible to get me to my nap as quickly as possible. Had it not been for their understanding and helpful efforts, I wouldn't have been as willing to upset the original plan in place. In the end, I got a full nap (because it took Maureen and Jen longer than expected to unload), and we got up to Katie's rested, unloaded, and ready to visit. A perfect way to start a great weekend!

There you have it - two more examples of what I mean when I talk about choosing to live well with a chronic illness. It's not always easy, but it always pays off.

No comments: