After 8 Years of Remission, I No Longer Hate Math
I wish I could go back in time and tell my middle-school self that one day, math would be a positive thing.
Algebra, trigonometry, and even physics felt alien to me. No matter how I tried, my brain did not function in a way that allowed me to conceptualize anything beyond basic multiplication. The only math subject I didn’t abhor was geometry, which came in handy with indoor soccer, which has the nuisance of confining walls surrounding the field. Defender rushing at you? Kick to the wall and you can sidestep them, then scoop up the ball goalside as it bounces back to you — providing you calculated the correct kicking angle!
Now, I understand the value of simple math when framing an optimistic perspective about life. At 16, I narrowly survived an acute pulmonary hemorrhage. The myriad details of hospital visits, doctors, and treatments could absorb several other columns’ interest. But in terms of numbers, the simplest outlook is that today, writing in my 30s, I’ve faced the complications of vasculitis for precisely half my life.
Of that portion, another half has been spent in remission. I never take this for granted. Doctors don’t know whether I’ll relapse again; all they can do is prescribe meds and hope for the best. And since we can’t yet identify a specific trigger for the disease, we can’t predict when or why it might choose to attack.
Like a weed lining the backyard fence, it’s too big to pull at the root, so we just spray it with chemicals and hope it doesn’t regrow. Often, the chemicals for vasculitis (in particular, heavy doses of steroids) cause more damage to our bodies, minds, and souls than we should have to endure.
Within the half of my life that I’ve had this disease, I’ve also relapsed three times. This might sound bleak unless you know that all three occurred within the first few years after diagnosis. Eventually, we got the inflammation under control, it plateaued, and now I’ve finally had a long period with little to no active symptoms. So, I choose to be positive and consider that after those years of turbulence, my body has finally stabilized.
Eight years of remission. That’s the number I return to mentally to bolster my spirit and keep my hopes up regarding living with a chronic illness.
Other numbers play into the disease, too. Once past the induction treatment, it’s on to maintenance meds. Four pills to swallow per day — three to control the inflammation, one to counter the side effects from the others — when it used to be upward of 10. There are also line items in my budget that address pharmacy orders, visits with my specialist, or lab results. Then more numbers added on the calendar as I note when to visit the lab, required once every six to eight weeks to monitor my blood levels and check for proteinuria.
Seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Four servings of fruit and veggies per day. The digits flip through my head continually, like the blinking updates of a stock market ticker. Unfortunately, there are very few aspects of life where I can be completely at peace, rather than thinking about whether my body is balanced.
But eight years of relatively stable health is worth figuring all those numbers.
Of course, it was an arduous trek to arrive at remission. Two out of three relapses occurred during my college years. Included in my routine those days was too little sleep, minimal exercise, and the too-frequent drive to McDonald’s at 2 a.m. — and that’s without considering the academic stress of higher education.
Fast-forward to today: I eat clean, fulfilling meals. I walk every day, and lift weights five times per week. I live in a cozy house in a nice neighborhood with my loving husband, and we relax in the evenings with the company of our two dogs. Life is fairly simple and happy for us. Finally, after so many years of anxiety and pain and medical stress, I’ve reached an overall stasis point.
So, for those patients who are still in the midst of your initial struggle, I hope hearing from someone on “the other side” can be encouraging. The numbers may begin to level out. Your body may stabilize. Perhaps you’ll be able to join me on my next health anniversary in January 2023, to mark 10 consecutive years of remission. Saying my disease has been under control for a decade will be the most empowering milestone yet.
Until then, I’ll take care of myself the best I can and keep a greater appreciation for certain numbers. Because these days, I can view math as an indicator of hope, health, and peace.
Note: ANCA Vasculitis 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 ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.