Having a slowed down immune system makes us vulnerable to infections. Some of these infections can be fatal. Some medications also can cause cancer as a side effect. Others can cause diabetes.
I don't know what medication you are taking, so I can't tell you specific things about it. Your medication will have some kind of warning label on it. Reading it is a good idea, even if it scares you silly. At least you'll know what the risks are.
MG is a powerful disease and it takes powerful medication to control it. If your medication makes you more susceptible to infection, use your common sense:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid people who are sick
- Clean the handle of the grocery cart
- Use a paper towel to open a public restroom door
- If the food in a restaurant warming tray looks like it's been there awhile, choose something else.
- Flu shots if your doctor recommends one
- Hand sanitizer is your friend
What about the other side effects? The scary side effects can wreck your life long before you are diagnosed with an illness. They can keep you up at night. What if I get cancer? What if the medicine gives me leukemia? What if the medicine gives me lymphoma? Am I going to get cancer from this? What will I do if I get cancer?
These thoughts can get stuck in your mind like a recording that never shuts off. Fear can take away your quality of life almost as fast as MG did.
It took me a while to find a way to shut down the voices and regain my equilibrium. I've been a continuous chemotherapy patient since 2005. Unless a cure is found, I will be taking chemotherapy to control my MG for the rest of my life. How I deal with the fear of side effects directly impacts my quality of life.
The medication I take causes leukemia, lymphoma, lung cancer and liver failure as side effects. It can also cause a ruptured bowel and a host of other nightmare scenarios. Death from side effects is a shadow that follows me everywhere. Do I want to live in the shadow, or in the light?
For me, living in the light means acknowledging the shadow exists. The risks are real. But, so is today. Today I don't have to deal with leukemia, lymphoma, lung cancer, or liver failure. Today is a good day. Today the side effects remain a shadow and they are not my daily reality. Today is a good day. Today matters.
It isn't that I have learned to ignore the shadow. I just choose not to give it attention it doesn't deserve. I shut down the endless cycle of "what if" by changing my thinking to "when." I assume a nasty side effect is coming in the future. I assume that when it does come I will fight it with strength, dignity and honor.
Assuming my ability to deal with the worst case scenario fills my heart with courage instead of fear. Knowing that I don't have to deal with the shadow today makes the light shine brighter in my life. Today I choose to be fully alive. I choose to enjoy my life.
Today is a good day. Today matters.