Since being diagnosed, have you had to make any major life adjustments? If so, what were they and what strategies helped you cope with these adjustments?
I find that I have become more relaxed and not living in fear. A lot of people say, “Oh, I’m just going to wait for a few years until I’m more stable, then I’ll do this, do that.” I have become one of those people that when an opportunity comes up, I kind of just jump on it. I did five years of undergraduate education. So, in my fourth year, I got an opportunity to go to England to do an internship and I took the opportunity and went. My mom was like, “Why not just wait a year? Then when you graduate, you could possibly live there?” And I was like, “Anything could happen in a year.” So, I just went for it. I figured out everything I needed to get there, and I just moved over there for a few months. I became more spontaneous that way, where I just live in the moment, and do things that truly make me happy versus holding back on that happiness for material gains or to make other people happy.
I think one of the biggest adjustments was just being in my mid-twenties, enjoying the best part of life, and having to step it down a notch. It definitely impacted my social circle too. That was what it was all about, going out to the cool places in Toronto and the restaurants, going for drinks after work. It really was hard at the beginning. I feel like I missed out on a lot. And even when I was around, I was so uptight at the beginning, and I still am sometimes, because I’m like, “I don’t want to get sick” and “I have to go to bed now. I’m going to get really run down if I don’t.” That’s kind of my mindset now, which is sometimes a little annoying.
I think the biggest sacrifice was just that kind of stuff. Missing out on things with my friends and having to take a back seat a bit. But at the same time, it did probably really help me get into remission. I’ve, you know, concentrated on different things like working out. So it’s the pros and cons. But I think that one of the biggest things was just being 25 and, instead of celebrating, I was crying at home because I couldn’t even go out for my birthday, and I just always wanted to go home. I would leave Toronto every weekend and my friend would get to party in our condo or go out with friends, and I’d just go home and cry at my mom’s. So I feel like I lost a little bit in terms of a couple of years. But I also made the most of my twenties that I could, and I had the best times with my friends when I could.
Oh wow. Yeah, I think my life just got turned upside down. Before I got sick I was very career focused and just work, work, school, work. That’s it. That was my focus. After I got sick and I couldn’t do that job anymore--like I just couldn’t do it, I didn’t have the energy to do it--I just felt, literally, what is my purpose in life? It made me evaluate what I am doing and why am I here. That’s when I actually turned to religion as well. I felt like I had to find a different way to approach my whole life. I literally changed my life completely after that. That was definitely the biggest turning point I’ve had. And yeah, like I’ve said, even with my career, even though it’s going sort of in the same areas I wanted to initially, I think that socially, my family, everything, my priorities changed a lot. From strictly career to like, okay there are other things more important in life than just your career and your job. I would say my advice is that it’s not hopeless and seeing a different path for yourself might actually be a positive thing. So even though you’re sick and it’s hard and it’s difficult and a struggle, it might be the thing that you need to make positive change. Because it definitely was for me. It forced me to make a lot of positive change for myself.