What does the phrase “fighting for my life” mean? Often when someone is going through a struggle, one will hear them say, “I’m fighting for a chance to survive.” Does this mean all the sick people of the world are taking medication by day and karate classes by night? Probably not. We choose to use the word “fight” because our diseases truly can make us feel like we are being beaten physically and emotionally.
Certain ailments can make you feel like everything is a task. So, day in and day out, you’re swimming upstream against a rushing current of problems. You’re fighting against the aches and pains, as soon as you open your eyes. So, it makes sense when you give up the fight. Your brain is overwhelmed and your spirit is drained.
Patients often cocoon in their beds because of fatigue, pain, insomnia, medication side effects, depression, or a combination of all the above. The mind simply shuts down and you feel as if you can’t go on. But staying in bed is where a lot of damage takes place. You cannot sit and wait when it comes to scleroderma, because it is a disease that literally will freeze you in place. I know how hard it can be to even muster enough effort to take a bath or shower. But the more you move, the easier it will become. Inactivity leads to weight gain, weakening of muscles, and immobility. This damage is difficult to reverse.
According to the University of Michigan, the lungs are involved in about 80 percent of all patients with scleroderma. Lung involvement in all its forms has emerged to be the leading cause of death and disability. But the National Institutes of Health encourages physical activity. But if you have a long-term lung condition, the thought of becoming quickly out of breath can be daunting, and you may not feel motivated to exercise.
It can be tempting to avoid exercise because you think it will make you breathless. But if you do less activity, you become less fit, and daily activities will become even harder. It is best to ask the guidance of a doctor or physiotherapist before you begin exercising to ensure that your exercise plans are in line with your capacity and are safe.
A breath of fresh air
In today’s society, it has become easy to sit at home for days and be full of distractions. The internet, Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Uber Eats, all allow us to comfortably stay at home and not do much. But staying indoors also can increase your social anxiety. Stepping outside for fresh air can boost your immune system and increase your happiness and energy levels.
As I walk through the park, I feel rejuvenated and strong. I consider it a mental exercise when I leave my house because I have to overcome the number of stares I receive. I have to “fight” the feelings of anger and anxiety. I’m a form of art for the public to feast their eyes on, and that sucks for me sometimes, but I don’t have a choice. I was dealt this hand young and I know I can’t see the world from my bed, even though Google Maps and YouTube convince me otherwise. I want to physically experience these things.
Scleroderma has the ability to be used as an excuse for many to give up. I’m the textbook definition of stubborn when it comes to taking my medications. I see my family and friends allow me to do things I shouldn’t at times because of what I’m dealing with. I appreciate that, but people with an active, life–threatening disease need tough love. I’ve gotten into screaming matches with my cousin because she is worried that I’m not doing what I should to prevent further damage. When this happens, it slaps me out of my denial and back into reality, and I appreciate the raw honesty because I need to hear it. Even though we act sensitive to advice, it pushes us in the opposite direction of death.
I’ve seen friends of the disease pass away because they didn’t follow their doctor’s advice or change their old habits. I understand every situation is different and some people get hit hard and fast, which is devastating. But for those who are idly sitting by, I hope to light a fire of ambition in your heart, whether you’re a patient, friend, or caregiver reading this.
Don’t put scleroderma on the back burner, because the odds may not be in your favor.
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.