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It’s that time of year to reflect on the last 12 months of our lives; what we achieved, what we could do better, and what was most important. My first thought about 2022 was that I did not achieve all that I felt I could have. I still have so much to work on, and this year didn’t go as planned. 2022 began with a COVID infection but I had finally found out what was causing my severe muscle myalgia, mental health issues, and other symptoms. I was certain that once I got rid of the COVID, I was going to build back to my old self. I signed up for a half marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon. I also started planning a career change. I started my real estate business when I could not get my Crohn’s under control and lost the ability to work in the mornings, at least outside of my house. 2022 felt like the year to make a change and do something more intellectually challenging. Unfortunately, it did not go the way I planned. First, the COVID lingered for over a month and led to a sinus infection and bronchitis. I also started having a Crohn’s flare since I still did not have a new treatment plan after discontinuing Humira. I started 2022 sick and on steroids. Once I was able to finally start running, I learned that the drug induced lupus did not immediately leave my body upon discontinuation of my medication. It lingered, at its worst, for another six months. While I was certainly much better than I was in 2021, I still could not run without triggering a lupus flare that left me unable to do anything for days. As a matter of fact, my run was slowed down so much that my pace was not much better than a walk. That continued for nearly a year after I stopped using Humira. The work it took to heal my body and mind was consuming and it was a full-time job to just go to my doctor’s appointments and do the work to get my body back to healthy. I would take 2 steps forward then 1 step back and I did not anticipate spending 2022 working so hard to just live. During this time, I learned that I could not do any intensive exercise or any endurance exercise, so the marathon had to be deferred. I also learned that long distance travel triggered some terrible muscle and joint pain, as well as serious brain fog that went far beyond jet lag. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in November and told by my neurologist that despite my best efforts, I may never fully recover due to the level of trauma my body experienced. It was not the most triumphant year. Despite all of this, I took another moment to reflect on what went right. I was not able to focus on getting my fitness back for most of the year, but I did focus on my mental health and my relationship with my husband. I finally got the mental health assistance I so desperately needed and started Wellbutrin. I also reconnected with my husband in a way that I was unable to while experiencing so many of the effects of the Humira. We took a trip to the Finger Lakes and I fell in love with him all over again. I’ve also come a long way health-wise since January 2022. Last week, I began training for the Rock N Roll half marathon. I’m fully training with speed work at the track, fartlek runs, and strength training. I’ve gotten much of my balance back and no longer have issues just standing or attempting to bend over. I started Living Chronic and have truly taken my life back. While at first glance 2022 may not have been very successful, I have much to celebrate. I still have a long way to go to reach full recovery but there is so much to look forward to in 2023. I plan to expand my Living Chronic podcast and blog to include advocacy work and outreach. I also plan on training for Marine Corps Marathon. Most importantly, I plan to continue working on myself. I spent a lot of 2022 feeling angry; angry at the doctors who did not identify a known reaction to Humira for 19 months, the loss of my life as I once knew it, and the disregard for my health and wellbeing by the medical professionals I once trusted. In 2023, I will replace that anger with action and positive outlook. Anger won’t bring back my health or my former life, but positive action will result in positive change. It will result in more outreach to other chronically ill patients who need help and hopefully, it will result in real change in legislation related to mental health, adverse reaction training for medical professionals, and better care for patients. It can be difficult to reclaim your life but there’s nothing more rewarding than dedicating what you have left to making other people’s lives better. 2022 was actually a success. I’m ready to make 2023 the best year yet, for myself, for my family, and for my fellow chronically ill warriors.

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