Frank YSacramento, CAThis ismy fight
I have a monster that lives within me. Let me tell you the story on how he has affected my life. It was back in 1975, I just started high school. I was a mere child of 15, just starting out in this world when he came into my life. At first, I didn't think much about him, nor him of me. I thought I was a normal 15-year-old. I wanted to drive a car, have a girlfriend, and...
I have a monster that lives within me. Let me tell you the story on how he has affected my life. It was back in 1975, I just started high school. I was a mere child of 15, just starting out in this world when he came into my life. At first, I didn't think much about him, nor him of me. I thought I was a normal 15-year-old. I wanted to drive a car, have a girlfriend, and just have fun. But it didn't work out that way, the monster had other plans for me.
My monster wanted to see what I was made of. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. He would try to push my fingers out of my skin. Sometimes he would make my hands so big, I couldn't make a fist. It was at the point that the pain was so bad, I asked my dad for help. So he took me to the doctor and then to another doctor and another doctor. We finally found a doctor who was able to tell us what the name of the monster that lived in me. It was rheumatoid arthritis.
The doctor prescribed me medicine to keep the monster asleep. To this day, I wonder if what the doctor did made the monster more mad and evil? Twice a month, I would get 18 shots in my hands, 9 in each one. On one of the trips to get my injections, I met an old man in the waiting room. He was in a wheelchair, all hunched up, weathered up by life, hands in braces, knees that way too. A mere shell of a man, you could say. He asked me why I was here. I told him why. He told me, “Son, as you go through life, please remember this, don't stop, keep doing what you love, and enjoy. Have a laugh or two, but never stop. For when you do, you could wind up like me." He also said, “It's a game, you have to play every day. It's you against it. And for the most part, you are on you own. So keep going and never give up.” I listened to the man's words but never gave it a second thought. I never saw the man again.
Months later, the monster came back. This time in my knuckles. That is when I learned what real pain felt like. I am not talking about bumping your knuckle pain. I am talking about pain when your fingers are being bent back so far that you wish they would just break off. Where the pain would last for hours, sometimes days. That is when I realized the monster inside me was real. I told my doctor about the pain, so along with cortisone shots the doctor gave me high powered pain pills. An unlimited supply. Yes, that's right. Give a 15-year-old boy an unlimited amount of pain pills! Well, let's just say, that didn't go over too well. I spent most, if not all of my high school years on pain pills and filled with the wonders of getting high.
When I reached my senior year of school, the monster pulled a cruel trick on me. He started bending my fingers the other way. That is the year that I found out how cold and rude people could be. I was stared at, talked about, laughed at, made fun of, and the more this happened to me, I could feel the monster getting stronger inside of me. So what did I do? I took more pills and smoked more pot. It seemed like the higher I got, the monster stayed away. Well at least that's what I thought. All the while, he was planning something more cruel and evil to do to me
I did make it through the rest of high school and college. With not too many battles with the monster, it could have been I was too high on pain pills and pot and other medicine to even care about what was happening inside of me. I did manage to have a girlfriend or two.. or three... but they didn't last long thanks to him. He made me feel like I was not good enough for someone to love or be with. So in time, I had grown used to being alone and self-conscious about how I looked and I didn't care to be around anyone.
So by this time, I was in my 20's, all I did was work as much as I could. That way I didn't have to worry about a social life. I was always working and running from the monster. Until one day, it hit me. The pills didn't work, the pot just covered it up. I fell apart, I was put into the hospital where the monster rose it's ugly head and took over. I was in pain! Pain so bad that I wished for death. I couldn't get out of bed all I wanted to do was sleep I could hardly stand or even hold a glass. I was at the gates of hell and praying just to end it all. I thought I was going through withdrawals from the drugs but the doctor told me no I had a rheumatoid flare up. That was my first full body flare up. Words could not describe it. It was the first time I cried. Really cried. I was at the end. When I was at my lowest, I remembered what the old man in the wheelchair said to me, life is a game, I had to keep playing every day. So I spent another week or more in the hospital. I got out with a new look on life. So I will give that battle to the monster.
So now, clean and off of the pain medicine, well some of them I decided to change my life. Take better care of my body, and start enjoying life and all the while keeping the monster at bay and never forgetting what the old man told me. Now in my 30s I needed to make a major change. The monster was under some what control but I did notice I was walking a little slower and my knees were hurting and on fire every now and then. I needed to make this happen and I did in a big way, I left everything behind and moved to California. Where its' always sunny and never rains. Yeah right! But it was for the best. I got a good job, found a good rheumatologist, met my wife, everything was going well.
Then one day, the monster pulled another evil trick on me. I woke up and couldn't hear. Yes, the monster took my hearing away from me. But thanks to good doctors and hearing aids, I won that battle from him. Granted my hearing isn't the same, but I can still hear.
Then there was another time where I couldn't walk or stand up without my knees hurting me. I remember my wife would say to me as I would try to stand up, “ webbles wobble but they don't fall down.” Weebles were toys that no matter what you did to them, they never fall down. When she said this, it would always make me laugh. Even though inside of me I was dying. Yes, the monster was back in my life. Stronger and even more evil. But this time, I found the key to keeping him at bay. Laughter, yes laughter and trying not to stress along with new medicine from the doctor.
See I found out that stress and worrying feeds the monster. So at this time I had both knees replaced in a 6 month period, chalk up another win for me. After the second knee replacement the doctor told me to stop working and to start enjoying life. I told him no that's okay. So I worked for about a year and the monster came back. This time I thought he had me. But no, he didn't He tried another way by filling my head up with anger and self-denial. I tortured myself and anyone around me. I slipped back into depression. I will give that round to the monster. I did learn how to deal with pain but not anger and self-denial. I stayed that way until after my second hip replacement.
There's not much you can do when you are laying in bed with a ten-inch long strip of staples in your hip! All I did was think and then the old man's words came back to me again. After the hip replacements, I took the doctors advice and I retired. I thought it would be the end for me. But it was not actually. It was a new beginning a re-found love of the arts. The joy of a summer day. The rain hitting my face, the fun things in life. Things I forgot all about. That is why I always say do something fun there's so much joy and wonder around you.
But all the fun and games led me to letting my guard down. Well, it happened again. This time it was my shoulders. The monster got me but this time it was different. It wasn't that bad, was it because the monster had gotten older and weaker or have I gotten stronger and braver? Whatever it was, I will take this as a win!
So after my shoulders were done, all was well, I was going places, doing and seeing things that I had never seen before. All was great. My doctor said everything was fine. I was once again on new medicine that seemed to work. I had not felt the monster for a year or more, so I had thought I had slayed the monster that lived inside of me.
Boy was I wrong. This time he came back with a vengeance. He couldn't attack any more joints because he had destroyed all of them. This time it was an abscess. Yes he had gotten me again. This time he used my own medicine against me!
Here's how it happened, I was out of town checking out Hot August Nights in Reno, NV, when this burning pain came upon me, in my upper thigh. I didn't pay much mind to it, I thought it was just a flare up. Man, was I wrong! My leg swelled up and burst, blood and pus was running down my leg. So I hurried home and drove straight to the hospital for emergency surgery to drain the poison.
This time I almost lost my life in the battle against the monster. See the doctor said if I would have waited a day longer, the poison in my leg would have been all through my body. It would have been a good chance I would not have come back from it. So I stayed in the hospital for 5 days with a pump attached to my leg, draining the poison. While I was in there that time I started thinking there is a piece of the puzzle that is missing, that keeps bringing the monster back.
Then it hit me, it was always there but it took something like this to pull it out. The missing piece of the puzzle was forgiveness. Yes, that was it! Forgiveness to the people that made fun of me, pitied me, shunned me, and the ones who thought by touching me, they would get the monster. But most of all, forgiveness to myself. For blaming myself for the monster that lives in me. I will give the monster that battle, he almost won. But I am still here and still playing the game. I know we will battle again but I am okay with that.
So in the end, if anyone asks if I had to do it all over, what would I change? I would say nothing. The monster made me a better person through the years and the battles, I have learned life is a very special gift that should not be taken for granted. With that being said, go out, enjoy life, do something fun and never stop playing the game.