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The Realities of Wanting to Live Abroad When You're on Immunosuppressants

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As I sit writing this in a small pub in Edinburgh, Scotland, I’m both elated and disheartened. In the last 28 days, I’ve traveled in 10 countries throughout Europe, falling more and more in love with each destination I discover. My love for the world has swelled to truly epic proportions. But I’m a little upset because I know, at least for the foreseeable future, no matter how much I love a place, lupus is likely to stop me from living anywhere but Australia.

I feel as if I leave a little piece of me wherever I go, but some places, for whatever reason, steal my heart. I’ve only been in Scotland a little over 24 hours and she already has me completely wrapped around her little finger.

woman walking down a road in scotland

Even though the summer temperature is nothing remotely close to what I’m used to, and I’m having a little trouble with the Scottish accent, I’m in awe of this beautiful country and would love to live here for an extended period. But that is unlikely to be an achievable reality for me in the near future.

My sentence with immunosuppressants is at least two years without parole, non-negotiable. And as long as I’m forced to buy boxes of mycophenolic acid (an immunosuppresive drug) in batches of 150 at a time, I can’t afford to live anywhere but my own country.

Don’t get me wrong — Australia is the best country in the world. It will always be my home. I love it and I’ll be unapologetically biased and completely patriotic about that! But on a completely serious note, the healthcare system provided to every Australian citizen is beyond amazing, not to mention a huge part of the reason I have the ability to live the life that I do.

As an Australian, I have major subsidies applied to a lot of my medications, most notably a reduction from nearly $300 to about $40 on my immunosuppressants. If it weren’t for the national healthcare system in Australia, there is no way I could afford the medication essential to stopping lupus from trying to kill me. And this means that until it’s decided I’m healthy enough to live without heavy-duty medications on a daily basis, Australia is the only place I can reside.

Please don’t take this as whining. I’m very aware of how good I have it, and that many others are not nearly as lucky when it comes to national healthcare, especially Americans. I’m incredibly grateful for all that’s available to me. I know if it weren’t for my nationality, I would have unimaginable amounts of debt for the rest of my life trying to afford the medication essential to keeping me alive.

But I do feel a little disheartened. Though lupus has stolen so much, I’ve fought tooth and nail to keep traveling, regardless of what it might cost me. The downside to traveling is that I can’t fall out of love with the countries and the memories. I’m perpetually longing to fill my heart with the emotions and the experience that only the unknown and the unfamiliar can bring.

I’ll keep crossing my fingers, toes and whatever else that one day I’ll have enough of a handle on my chronic illness that being an expat — even temporarily — becomes a possibility. Maybe it won’t be, but only time will tell. In the meantime, I can’t help but remain painfully optimistic that one day all the scary and wonderful things that go with moving to a completely different country will be my reality, and I’ll get to call beautiful Scotland home.

This post originally appeared in Kristiana Page’s column “The Girl Who Cried Wolf” on Lupus News Today. 

Originally published: September 16, 2017
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