The Chronic Illness Edition of 'Would You Rather'

On my way to work, I listen to a classic rock station that plays mostly songs from the 80s for the sole purpose of making me feel old. Every now and then, the DJs play a game called “Would You Rather?” Maybe you’ve heard of it. The game consists of asking players to choose between two implausible and often unpleasant alternatives.

Example: Would you rather never be able to wash your hands again, or never be able to brush your teeth again?

It recently occurred to me that those of us with chronic illnesses play this game every day, whether we like it or not. Would you rather:

1. Miss the day at the zoo with your nieces, or spend a week recovering?

2. Ignore the rude looks and comments from strangers and take the elevator, or try to hide your grimace of pain as you climb to your third floor office?

3. Take a med that makes you nauseated 90 percent of the time, or one that means giving yourself painful injections?

4. Skip that delicious-looking, sugary deep-fried fair food, or spend the night vomiting?

5. Tell your boss you’re having horrible pain and run the risk he will think you are just being lazy, or hide the pain and run the risk of making it 10 times worse?

6. Fight through the pain, or take the pain med and feel like a zombie?

Psoriatic arthritis has been part of my life for over a decade. And it affects all aspects of my life. How I dress. What, when, and how I eat. The kind of car I drive. Who I spend time with. The kind of work I do. The kind of exercise I get. The way I spend my money. Whether I want to admit it or not (and I love living in denial), this disease will continue to affect me for the rest of my life. I will have to make decisions every day based on how I feel and what I can handle.

Will I make a painful three hour drive to celebrate my mom’s last radiation treatment with her? Will I read to my nieces when they ask, even though my hands are swollen and I can barely hold the book? Will I be there for my best friend in her time of grief, even if it means spending days upon days in uncomfortable hospital waiting rooms and sleeping in chairs?

Will I let the constant pain make me angry and bitter, or will I allow it to teach me to better recognize pain in others?

I have no choice about whether this disease will change me. But I do have a choice as to how it will change me.

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