End of Year 2013 Update

My web hosting service sent me a renewal notice for my website "Sleepless in Vienna" recently and I had to decide if I wanted to keep it and continue to write my blog, or quit. Writing my blog gave me focus for a long time - it helped me deal with my illness. But I've been living with Sarcoidosis for almost ten years now, and after a few years there was only one thing I wanted: to lead a "normal" life. Constantly writing about my illness didn't help. So I abandoned my blog.

Nevertheless, I now decided to keep it. It serves as a kind of diary, mostly for myself. Re-reading old entries helps me to keep my perspective. This illness has turned my life upside down, yet somehow I've come out stronger. Life isn't better - I hate it when people say/write that some misfortune or other (illness, accident, etc) is the "best thing" that ever happened to them. This illness is the worst thing that's ever happened to me, and I wish I'd never gotten sick. There's isn't a single positive thing I can say about it. But I'm not letting it ruin my life, and that's what I mean when I say that I've come out stronger: lots of challenges, yet I've figured out how to live a somewhat "normal" life.

Here are a few 2013 updates:

I was diagnosed with a second illness, the auto-immune disease Hashimoto's Thyroiditis three months ago. It's incurable, but just like Sarcoidosis, it can be managed. I'm about to begin treatment and will probably have to take medication for this illness for the rest of my life. I postponed the start of my treatment until now, after getting diagnosed in September. I simply couldn't deal with any more bad news, and I needed a few weeks to let it all sink in, to research this new illness, and to make decisions about my treatment. If there's one thing I learned during the last ten years, it's not to let the doctors decide how to treat my illnesses.  But now it's time: I need to start taking hormones, as this new disease is destroying my thyroid. I can already feel the side effects, like low body temperature.

I had another health scare for a few days back in the summer: a bump on the head turned into suspicion of a benign brain tumor, but after all kinds of tests were performed, I was relieved to learn that it was most likely just some trauma to the head and not a tumor (that's the doctor's best guess; he wasn't sure...). I tend to bump into things, and then forget about it. Who knows what I bumped into this time. A kitchen cabinet, is my best guess. Anyway, that was scary. For ten days last summer I thought, "what if this is it?" I don't know about you, but I started to de-clutter my apartment. If I really die unexpectedly, I don't want to leave behind a mess for my family to deal with. I kept de-cluttering my apartment even after I got the all-clear from my doctors, so at least something good came out of the whole thing.

I'm off the steroids for now, and that's really good news. I managed to taper off the cortisone medication last spring, at the end of March 2013. I had to take steroid medication almost continuously for more than eight years to keep my Sarcoidosis in check, and the side effects were devastating. Never mind the enormous weight gain, the depression was the worst - I reached a point in my life a few years back when - for the first time ever - I understood why people commit suicide. I'm not the suicidal type, and for me to even understand the notion of someone wanting to take his or her life - I was in a really dark place, and it wasn't just my illness. It was mostly the side effects of that awful cortisone medication. I now live a very quiet, stress-free life  - so as not to stir the "beast" within. I don't want the Sarcoidosis to flare up again, so I'm taking things easy.

I did adopt a dog after all. About a year ago, I was considering adopting a dog and even wrote about it on my Website. But I changed my mind - I was overwhelmed with the prospect of caring for a dog. Then my sister goes on vacation to Greece and brings back not one, but three abandoned puppies (on October 3rd). Other people's sisters bring back bottles of olive oil as presents when they vacation in Greece - she rescues dogs. All three puppies have found good homes, and I am raising one of them. She's not yet housebroken, and as I know nothing about dogs, she's a wild one and in dire need of guidance (not from me, apparently, as I have no idea how to communicate properly with a dog), but I don't regret my decision. I pay a fortune to the vet, though. A fortune!

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