Acknowledging the Changing Seasons of Health
This summer was a lovely one. My days were filled with friendship, travel, gardening, and delicious cuisine. I had enough work to keep busy, but wasn’t overloaded. We even brought home a new puppy — a gorgeous, white German shepherd that is smart and loyal. I had so many good health days in a row that I often didn’t feel like a high-risk autoimmune patient.
In Kansas City, Missouri, where I live, the summer extends longer than in the Great Lakes region where I grew up. September here is nowhere close to winter. The sunflowers are in full array, reaching their full height in gardens and fields, and sprinkling some color along highways all over the state. This time of year, temperatures can still reach the 90s. But unlike July, the whisper of a crisp breeze is in the air, especially at night, to signal that it won’t be hot out much longer.
The changing of the seasons is a reminder that life is always in flux. When health complications arise, it’s easier to manage my attitude because these challenges are nothing new. Like shifting weather patterns, I’ve experienced them enough to know that better times are around the corner.
When I was first grappling with ANCA vasculitis, we didn’t even have a name for it. The doctors labeled my most alarming symptom — coughing up blood — an “idiopathic hemorrhage.” My health profile otherwise fit that of a normal teenager, so the extreme onset alone was terrifying, let alone doctors not knowing how to control it.
That was truly the “winter” of my disease. I was lonely, depressed, and lost.
But a diagnosis finally came after five months. It was then I allowed myself to feel hope. With a name for the illness, we could access treatments and medications that would slow the vessel inflammation. I could gradually ease back into a routine of school, friends, work, and the hobbies I loved. Hearing a diagnosis pronounced was like witnessing the emergence of a March flower from an ice-encrusted landscape.
Relationships with family members, romantic partners, and friends also have seasons. Sometimes two people get along, sometimes they fight bitterly. There are also oscillating patterns with work. An employee can be fueled by the passion of their vocation, or go through a period where they are unmotivated, depressed, or stuck in a rut.
Part of being human is coping with change. My body’s dramatic swings from good to bad and everything in between is the type of shift I’ve learned to focus on most.
Moving from spring to summer signifies a transition into an easier life. The last eight years have reminded me that this era of my health is a sunny one. I eat a healthy diet, sleep well, and generally feel high energy during waking hours. I can envelop myself in comfort and safety. Remission has been kind to me, and I don’t take that for granted.
The danger is that this illness can be inconspicuous until it’s too late. Something in my lungs or kidneys could go very wrong, with the threat lurking for weeks before noticeable symptoms appear. By then, the autoimmune attack may be bad enough that I’d need a heavier dose of meds or a hospitalization, or I could suffer long-lasting organ damage.
That’s why it’s crucial to be so in tune with the seasons of my health. Just as I check the weather app on my phone before heading outdoors for a weekend activity, I don’t ignore the barometer of my physical mood. If I’m tired, I rest. If I’m hungry, I eat. Even fatigue can be a real indication of my condition going south. Ultimately, my immune system’s swinging patterns can be controlled if I know to watch for them.
As we head toward the cooler half of the year, I can have peace knowing that my disease is generally stable these days. And when the icy winds do blow, I’ll have a solid foundation of security, knowledge, and self-care to sustain me until summer comes around again.
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.