Life changing precipices

We have one life, one kick at the can, with no reset button … how one deals with life’s mountains and challenges says a lot about their character.

Recently, I find myself dealing with a potential life changing precipice.

The first precipice …

Years ago, in another time and space, when I was much younger (some 30 years ago), I contracted a debilitating disease Rheumatoid Arthritis.

At the time I became very depressed about my life’s situation. Experiencing pain in a number of key joints, wrist, shoulders, elbows … you name the joint, the arthritis had been there. The disease travelled through out my body going from one joint to another, it was like a wayward villain, looking for a place to rob its tranquility. Sleeping was a chore even the weight of bed sheet was intolerable. Over 2 years, I lost weight, going from 145 lbs down to 120 lbs, and looked pale and became anemic and tired easily.

My family doctor at the time, no longer could help and referred me to a Rheumatology Specialist, Dr. McKendry, Ottawa General Hospital. I remember sitting in the waiting room rather down about my situation, just before I was about to see the good Doctor. Beside me, sat an older lady who sensed my despair. Without introducing herself, quietly said to me … “I am 55 years old, I have had rheumatoid arthritis since my 20’s, I married and raised two children, I run a family home, on my good days I can wash windows and cook, other days I cannot, but I am happy and still here.” Rather prophetic, I would say. I have used that speech as motivation to remain positive in life.

Soon after having my first consult with Dr. Mckendry, I was hospitalized. Looking at my situation he prescribe Myocrisin, a dosage that would increase weekly, until a maximum amount of 50 mg, if all went well, I would begin to show positive improvement after 4 to 6 weeks. Well, my body responded positively, and was back on me feet relatively pain free. Over the next 20 some years, life progressed as normally as it should for a male in his mid 20’s.  I married a wonderful woman, helped raise two boys, purchased and renovated a home and succeed as a graphic designer. Eventually branching out and opened my own firm in the mid 90’s. On occasion, the arthritis would remind me it was still there, a minor flare up would occur, in a joint here and there, nothing major. I was enjoying a relatively successful life.

Then the second … am I losing my head?

Late 1998, the back of my neck began aching, cold and hot treatment provided little or no relief. I mentioned this to Dr. Mckendry, who then ordered x-rays of my head and neck area. In January 1999, I met with a neurologist Dr. Bouchard. In a manner of minutes he explained in graphic terms, referencing my x-rays, how my spinal column was infected with rheumatoid arthritis. That it was a matter of time when when head would literally fall off and I would die. He looked at me, rather matter factly, with his intern standing beside him, if he had a neck like yours I would not let him out of the hospital. He said he had some leeway and could arrange immediate operating time for a c1-c2 neck fusion.  I asked him to set a date in April for the operation..

I walked out of the hospital with my wife, and put things in order at my firm with the staff.

Two operations where required, the first fusion (April 1999) with no screws did not result in a fusion of any sort. It was very disappointing, by December of 1999, I was faced with another operation, a riskier fusion of c1-c2 with Titanium screws, and the wearing of a head halo. for three months after the operation. The operation was delayed until January 2000, so I could enjoy Christmas and the beginning of the New Year.

The second operation was a success, life was good and a I felt I could take on the world.

Another precipice … the third!

As a result of the arthritis, my immune system is compromised, until now, I believe I had met the challenges that the rheumatoid arthritis had placed in front of me. Not so fast, as I found out this month.

Since the mid 1990’s I have been dealing with cellulitis, 25 or so incidents until 2009, where my right hand swells to twice its size, grip and ability to function with the hand become limited. However, I am still able to use the right hand with limited functionality. The protocol to deal with the infection is to take heavy doses of antibiotic over 20 days. This has worked until now.

Today, after, 25 days of oral and Intravenous antibiotics 24/7, my right hand is painful to use, my guess 10% functionality. So why is this a precipice … well I am right handed, as such, virtually 95% of the worked I have produced over that last 40 years has been with my right hand. Over the past 20 days i have had to develop designs and layouts using  my left hand. Not an easy task. This blog, for example had been typed entirely with my left hand. Processes which I took for grant in the use of my right hand are no longer available and I am frustrated and challenged. Not to mention having to rest my right hand in a position so that it is not so painful.

The challenge

At 63  I made the decision to work until I am 70, unfortunately, this recent event may force a life changing moment.

I have been forced to use my left hand, I continue to work out of my home office where I have been the last 4 years, that is not so bad. The cellulitis limits other work opportunities that for which I make use of other skills and expertise I have and enjoy using. That is the challenge.

My gut is telling me this is a long term challenge that requires a serious reassessment in direction for work and the future.

My question to you is to you what have been your challenges, how you faced them?

What motivates you irrespective of your life challenges?








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