Travel Decisions with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Sara Nash Health Guide
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    Two years ago, had I been asked at the end of a crazy month of nearly non-stop work to suddenly take a quick, last minute trip abroad for work, I wouldn’t have batted a mascara’d eye lash.  I would have dashed home, yanked out my passport, bought the tickets and been ready to go, figuring I could sleep on the plane and keep myself pumped up on caffeine to push off the exhaustion.

    Now, it’s a whole other ball game, much to my chagrin.  When, on the train back to New York last week, my boss called and asked me if I could go to a festival in Austria this week, instead of instantly saying yes, all of I could think of was, what if I get sick?

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    See, I’ve been pushing myself all month long – and my RA pushed back with a flare in response.  That’s one of the worst things about living with a chronic disease; it’s simply unpredictable. Even if you are feeling fine one day, the next could be a different story. With work finally quieting down, I was looking forward to getting a lot of sleep, practicing yoga more, and well, being able to simply relax and take care of myself. Getting on a plane for eight hours to attend a hectic festival where I’d be up late and busy busy busy didn’t seem illustrious and fun – it felt stressful and like I was just asking for another flare.

    One of the things I hate most about having RA is that everything costs more, but you never know exactly what something is going to cost until it’s time to pay the bill. I felt really torn.  Should I go and risk the trip taking more out of me than I could really afford to give right now? Or should I play it safe, but lose out on a great trip even though I might feel perfectly fine even if I did go? I asked my boss if I could think about it for a day.

    True to my type A fashion, I made up a list of pros and cons, but that ended up being dead even.  No help at all.  After that, I tried talking about the decision with one friend, and was leaning towards not going, but then I talked to another friend and ended up thinking I should go ahead and go. And, in the midst of all the deliberation, I felt severely annoyed and resentful that my life wasn’t like it was two years ago. Why did such a decision have to be so complicated? At a loss of what to do, I finally decided to follow my Mom’s advice: sleep on it and then do what I thought was best in the morning.

    When I awoke, I looked up at this big map of the world that I have stuck to the wall across from my bed.  It’s often the first thing I see when I get up in the morning.  Over the years, I’ve stuck little star stickers on it marking all the places I’ve been. I knew in my heart of hearts what I wanted to do, so I figured, RA be damned; I was going to go and take the risk and deal with whatever might come of it later. After all, it’s impossible to predict the unpredictable, so why was I trying? I’d be able to rest up over the coming weekend, and bottom line, traveling is one of the things I love most in the world.  If I let RA stop me just because I’m scared of what might happen, then I let it control one more little piece of me and my life than it already does.

  • So, Austria, here I come!

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Published On: February 18, 2009