When You Start Experiencing Symptoms Again After a Period of Remission

Living with chronic illness can sometimes mean the symptoms are at bay.  Extra rest is minimal. Diet is healthy. Stress is minimized. Exercise is helpful. Treatments are working. Flares are kept at bay. Specialist appointments are no longer monthly. I may almost feel “normal.” Even when I have little reminders of the autoimmune diseases I live with, I keep them to myself. I soak up all the normalcy I can when my chronic illness is in remission.

I strive to enjoy a carefree life. I like to make believe my chronic illness has disappeared, if even for just a short period of time. When possible, I try to enjoy the flare-free time and not think about what might be going on inside my body. Antibodies are a funny thing. We can’t see them. If treatments, diet and rest are working, they may be calm and not in attack mode; but, something will set them off. Something already has, or I wouldn’t be battling an autoimmune disease. It’s just a matter of when they will start to battle my own body, again.

As my loved ones and I celebrate the good health reflected in how I look and act, there can be and often are attacks going in inside my body. The symptoms of those attacks often go unnoticed. Naps have become commonplace to keep me going. Pain becomes dulled in my mind because I’ve dealt with pain for so long and my pain tolerance has risen. And then there is numbness. How does one measure numbness? Could this all just be in my head? I keep smiling, keep going, keep enjoying my seemingly almost normal life.

Then symptoms start to appear again. Sometimes these are new symptoms. Some are different. Something odd begins to happen. I measure the number of times this happens in my head prior to saying anything to my loved ones, or my specialists. If I just wait then perhaps this new symptom will go away, right? When the new onslaught of symptoms gets worse, I can’t ignore them and my loved ones start to notice. I then have to relent and tell my specialists.

My specialists are not surprised by the new symptoms because they know and often expect the progression of my illness. I already know the progression of symptoms from delving into all of the information I have studied throughout my battle, but I choose to ignore these new symptoms for as long as I can. My specialists gently remind me of the treatment that is next in the arsenal for when things get worse. They tell me it’s time. They don’t want things to progress further, and neither do I. I agree to get started on the next round of treatment, no matter what the side effect profile looks like. The side effect profile suddenly pales in comparison to the damage the disease can cause if left unchecked.

For a short time, I felt as healthy as I looked. However, this day is the reminder that underneath it all, I am still sick. A chronic illness may hide for a while, but until there is a cure, it will rear its ugly head again.

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