Life After Medical Retirement: The End, or the Start of a New Beginning?
I’m lying on my bed resting my legs and watching the sunset outside my bedroom window. It is stunning and although I’m in pain, it lifts my spirits and makes me feel very blessed to be alive.
It’s been a busy week. Hectic actually, well hectic for me. Nothing like my old working week looked like of course, although my family has been laughing at me this week and saying that with my forum and writing I’ve managed to create a new full-time job for myself.
That’s a good thing though. A really good thing. It’s been over three years since I medically retired and it has taken that long to reinvent myself, so to speak. I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do in my medical retirement. When I first left work I had rheumatoid arthritis and a permanent colostomy but I had no idea I was about to experience the full force of a rare disease. That onslaught came 10 months after I retired.
My original plans of a quiet medical retirement with outings on good days, perhaps a bit of local travel within Australia and some daily exercise with walks around our beautiful Bayside suburb all came crashing down the day my femur broke in two.
Two years of surgery after surgery and countless hospital stays didn’t really provide me with the time or energy to think about what I could do with my life, particularly given that my physical disabilities had become non-treatable, permanent, progressive and incredibly restrictive.
2017 has been a good year. Not because my health has improved – it hasn’t. In fact, it’s got worse. My rare bone disease is really out of control but my specialists made a decision late 2016 to avoid further surgery this year to give my body a rest. I was being given the gift of time. Less appointments, no hospital stays, no lengthy surgical recoveries.
2014 to 2016 is a complete blur. I can’t remember much about those two years at all. In stark contrast, 2017 has given me time to think with a clearer head. No constant effects of general anesthetic fogging my brain. What a relief!
Yes I have severe pain, constant fractures, extreme exhaustion and increasing mobility issues but it’s been a delight to be home and just go about my days at my own pace. I’ve enjoyed sunrises, sunsets and all the hours in between.
I’ve also finally been able to reinvent myself. I’m too young to just do nothing. My brain runs at a million miles an hour. It needs to be active and I need a sense of purpose and to feel like I’m still contributing to society in some way. I’ve never been someone who was content to just focus on leisure activities. Even as a child I was always working on a project of some kind. At school I would finish assignments early and be given extras to do for the fun of it. I know that sounds kind of silly but believe it or not I was actually part of the “cool” group at school, or so we thought anyway! I’ve always had a strong sense of commitment and responsibility to make a difference in some way and that wasn’t about to be squashed by chronic disease. It’s just who I am, how I’m wired I guess.
My dream of writing began to take shape as my blog became more established. Writing opportunities presented and I became an ongoing contributor at The Mighty. I joined the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network and have been inspired by other bloggers all writing to educate readers about specific diseases and share ways to live the best life possible with their health issues.
My greatest love though and the thing that keeps me the busiest is “Medical Musings with Friends,” my online support forum for people with chronic and complex diseases. I love it. I love the members. Their stories are so precious, their support of each other so genuine. Keeping this forum positive and relevant is my major daily focus. It is such a blessing and honor to be able to serve its members each and every day.
As well as the forum members this wonderful opportunity has also brought with it my team of co-administrators. This team is such an amazing support to me and we have all become great online friends.
I had no idea three years ago what I was going to do with my life. It’s so easy to think that chronic and complex disease is the end of life.
It may be the end of life as you know it now, but it can be the start of a whole new fulfilling life. That process takes time, even years, but don’t lose hope. Keep dreaming and thinking about what you can physically and mentally cope with and eventually you too will reinvent yourself.
The end will be the start of a new beginning!
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Thinkstock photo via Buccina Studios.