It was two weeks before Christmas in 2008 that we were standing in the holiday section at Lowe's looking at lights. We had just been outside looking at trees, the temperatures were in the low 50's, and my right fingers felt funny, like there was a rubber band tightly around them.
When I pulled my hand out of my pocket to take a look, I was alarmed to see from the second digit to my nail, two of my fingers were totally white. There was nothing visibly wrapped around them, but the circulation had been completely cut off.
Over the next year, it happened to me a few more times, like when I'd be reaching in to the freezer for something or venture in to the cold section at Costco. But the most notable occurrence was when I did my 3-Day breast cancer walk in November. On the first day, we started very early, the temperatures were in the high 40's and even though I had on gloves, all of the fingers on my right hand turned white and went totally numb.
According to my sister, what I've been experiencing sounds like Raynaud's (pronounced Ray Nodes) disease, or phenomenon. For people with Raynaud's , when you are exposed to colder temperatures, the blood vessels in your hands (and/or feet) go in to a vasospasm which narrows the blood vessels considerably, and your fingers (and/or toes) turn white, grey or blue.
When I received my blood work last week that showed I tested positive for ANA, it was one more piece in the puzzle pointing to a possible autoimmune disorder. And from what my doctor told me, autoimmune disorders - including Raynaud's - are often genetic. Which makes sense since my mother's cousin had Raynaud's and apparently, two of my sisters have the same issues with their fingers turning white whenever the temperature drops below 50. This is a bigger issue for them than me, since they live in Massachusetts and I live in San Diego. Now, I'll probably remain for the rest of my life here, given that I have this "condition" that makes my hands look corpse-like whenever it gets chilly.
Still, my mind has been reeling since I've received this diagnosis. Me? With a health condition? Is this part of the reason my feet fall asleep whenever I run? Is this why my arms get tingly? Does this mean at 38 years, 11 months of age, my body is failing? Is this the reason I keep getting sick over and over and over again? What NEXT?
Then, just yesterday, I spoke with a woman who told me that she had the autoimmune disease lupus which often accompanies Raynaud's. But since she has embraced a more healthful diet, a more stringent exercise routine and has taken steps to alleviate stress in her life, all of her symptoms have completely vanished.
Isn't that amazing? A better diet, more exercise and stress reduction can help improve a person's quality of life AND possibly cure whatever is ailing them?
Well, I knew. And for the past several months, each week I feel like I'm admitting I don't do as much as I should (or could) to take care of myself. I've made it abundantly clear that I'm not the priority in my life. I don't have the time or I feel guilty. Some days I exercise. Most days I do not. Some days I don't have any sugar. Most days, I'm desperately scouring my cupboards for anything sweet. Last week, I ate marshmallows straight out of the bag because that's all we had and I needed SOMETHING.
For some people, it's so hard to take care of themselves. Whether that comes in the form of preparing a healthy meal, getting in some exercise, or going to bed at a decent hour. I know how easy it is when you're working full time and raising a family to not consciously think about the ramifications from an inactive lifestyle or what you eat.
For the first time, I can see that putting my health first each day, is the single most important thing I can do for my family. For the first time, I realize that if I don't make the commitment to ME, my health issues are only going to get worse. So as a reminder, I've made small notes for myself that are hanging up throughout the house that read, "What GOOD are you doing for yourself TODAY?"
If I can answer three correctly, I get a donut.
(Just kidding. Although maybe if they were baked...?)
So I'm posing this question to you, which I hope you'll consider and answer sincerely. If not to me, at least to yourself.
Is your health the priority in your life?