I do not make a habit of reflecting on previous years at the beginning of a new one. I do not think reaching into the past and re-living memories brings solstice and comfort. If anything, it only brings pain and reminders of emotional baggage I would rather forget. I am not a sentimental person so I do not hold on to the good memories either. I remember them, yes, but good memories are more likely to hold me back than bad ones. Why? Because I may hold every future event to the standards of previous ones and not fully appreciate moments.

Yet, I digress…

 

I reflected on this past year because 2015 was different from any other. It was the worst year of my life. This is not say I have not experienced worse but only that this was a consistently down year with very few up points. I am happy to see it come to an end and look forward t0 the new year in a way I never did before.

January started out cold and snowy. Schools were let out and snow days piled up. For the most part I did not worry that my classes were postponed. I did mind, financially, because in January alone I had to buy a new battery and tires for the car and a new heating system for the house. I did not get paid for the classes until I taught them. The make-up lessons were in March so I lost out on quite a bit of money in the short term.

I had gone with much less and made it through unscathed, but at the end of January Saachi collapsed because of a 14cm tumor pressing up against her lungs. For seven weeks I cared for her as the cancer spread quickly through her body. I rushed her to emergency and carted her to chemotherapy. My RA symptoms increased rapidly due to the extra stress and typical winter weather. I was no longer a functional human being. I was in pain and I was angry my dog was dying.

Everyone was so worried about Saachi my birthday slipped by unnoticed. I was never big on birthdays. I was perfectly content with an occasional “Happy Birthday” said in passing but 2015 marked my 25th and nobody cared. My father remembered but he barely touched on it before conversations turned to Saachi.

Spirits already low, I watched Saachi’s body fail her. My father was still abroad so I, alone, took care of her. After bouncing back from multiple tumor ruptures, her body disintegrated. She could no longer deal with the pain but her mind remained as fit as ever. This eased our guilt when we decided to euthanize. She walked into the clinic, on her own, with her tail held high. The cancer and pain had not spread so far that she did not recognize us.

At this point, my finances really caught up to me. I had spent more than a good amount on Saachi’s wellbeing (something I will never regret) and ended up in major debt. I had to ask my father to help me pay off credit cards and car payments. This is something I had not done since high school so this stretched my emotional strain further.

The stress of that seven weeks and the pain of losing my first pet shot my immune system and wiped away any progress with the RA. My doctor forced me to switch to a different biologic medication so we forgot about the Orencia and tried Actemra.

We saw improvement during the first month but by the second I was no longer able-bodied. I only managed work and even that was difficult. And, for the first time, I needed assistance to walk. I intermittently need the aid of a cane or walker. I could not switch back to the Orencia because it took time for biologics to build up in the system and I had to wait at least three months. For all we knew, this was just the dip between the Orencia tapering out of my system and the Actemra building up in it.

This disastrous transition occurred during the lovely spring and summer months and I spent all of it indoors. I could not enjoy my favorite time of the year so I became even more recluse than ever. Nobody noticed. Not only was my birth inconsequential, so was my existence. I did not hear from anyone for months. For all anyone knew, I did not exist and they didn’t care.

I was back on the Orencia, summer camps were over, and the fall semester started. A week before my classes were to begin I found out most of them had low enrollment and I lost more than half of them. I lost 75% of the money I thought I’d make. I was in no physical position to work another job so I twiddled my thumbs until a new batch of classes started. Even with the initial loss, I still came through the semester with a full schedule but September was fiscally devastating.

I had nothing to take my mind off this financial setback. I gave up climbing because the two times I went, earlier in the year, left me with bad flares that lasted over a week (read: walker). I could deal with the flares, but I was not in a stable enough mental state to see how far my ability fell. I used to be a fantastic rock-climber but now I struggled to complete introduction climbs for people who had never climbed before. Climbing became emotionally exhausting and I could not bring myself to continue with it.

This brought its own set of anxieties. I was forced to give up my hobby of over 12+ years. How could I deal with that? Rock-climbing was not only a hobby but part of my identity. I didn’t know who I was without it.

I focused my energies on nail art, a pastime I turned to when my RA repressed all other activities, but then my camera broke and I struggled to post content I was proud of. I wanted to start a beauty YouTube channel but that was also on the back burner. I put aside money to buy a new camera.

With enough saved up, pay over time features and other little savings tricks here and there I was all set to buy the camera when Affie’s jaw finally became infected. We struggled with her teeth and gums since she was a puppy. The infection ate away her jaw bone (already weak from a previous fracture) and I paid for oral surgery to remove her teeth. I also do not regret this decision. Had I not done the surgery, her jaw would most certainly re-fractured, she would succumb to heart and stomach disease and potentially a whole other set of health issues. At the age of 10, I did not want to take any chances with her health.

Affie came out of her surgery healthy and happy and a little gummy and December started out well. The best month out of the entire year. I was nearly out of debt, we would have a full house for Christmas and the weather was mild.

Just as my winter break began I cracked a rib due to RA-related osteoporosis. I could not lift anything and I could not sleep laying down. I was down for the count over the holidays.

I finally realized vet school was not a viable option. If I couldn’t lift a 40 pound bag of cat litter how was I to finish four years of physically intensive vet school? I was thrust into an existential dilemma. What was I going to do with my life?

I never once wavered in thinking that I was going to vet school. I never had any reason to. Well, here it was, proof that vet school might be impossible for someone with an uncontrolled autoimmune.

 

That was 2015. Some good things happened but nothing fantastic enough to break through the wall that cropped up around my life. Even if it had that potential, something awful quickly followed, pushing those few instances of happiness back into the depths.

This is 2016. I am out of debt, my medications are working and I am much happier. I cannot say this mood will last but as of now 2015 is a distant memory.

 

Hi, my name is Monica and I have RA.

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