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Would I call myself a control freak? Maybe once, sure.

Since I got sarcoidosis, I have actually learned that much is out of my authority. It always has been but when you are in active “control freak” mode, this is a hard reality to accept. I have come not only to accept this reality but to embrace it now. I like that I no longer have to know the answer to everything. I actually take some small measure of comfort in my now profound understanding that much of life is, in fact, a crap shoot.

We get the hand we are dealt.

Sarcoidosis has taught me that I have a choice in how to play that hand. I can sit and wallow in utter misery, sobbing over what has been lost to me because of this disease or, I can try to turn the situation to my advantage. I’ve learned to do the latter. Over the years that I have had this disease, I have become quite passionate about my self care because this truly is the only thing in my control. It’s the play I have with cards I’ve been given. So, I am fierce in my determination to eat right and exercise, to sleep enough and to reduce my stress. I allow myself no excuses when it comes to self care.

I have learned that I truly am what I eat and while diet certainly does not cure sarcoidosis, a healthy intake of fresh clean food does help reduce inflammation and this helps me better manage my symptoms. Diets, or as I like to think of them, lifestyles, come in all shapes and sizes and just like everything else with this disease, there is no one size fits all. For me, becoming a vegan was the answer. Cutting out all dairy and all animal products helps me breath better, reduces my overall fatigue and lessens some of the nerve pain.

I did not embrace this idea happily. Prior to my sarcoidosis diagnosis, I was a cheese addict. The more cheese the better, I thought. I had no idea I was actually making myself sicker but after a fair amount of kicking and screaming and probably some swearing, I let go of mozzarella. I said goodbye to gorgonzola. I put down the cheddar and I feel better. I feel stronger and healthier even as this disease continues to torment me. I allow myself no excuses when it comes to self care.

Getting myself moving again was next on the agenda and this too came with challenges. It still does, but in the beginning, trying to exercise while gasping for air was quite an experience. I felt dizzy and weak and foolish and fed up but, I refused to give up. I knew that building my stamina would improve my lung function. Irregardless of all my medications, I knew something as simple as taking regular walks would not only improve my strength, it would lighten my mood. So, I pushed myself and it was often like pushing a big rock up a steep hill but still, I pushed and I huffed and I am here to tell you that over time getting regular exercise has improved my mood, lessened my fatigue and damped my pain. I allow myself no excuses when it comes to self care.

I have been humbled by this disease. I am no longer a control freak but I am still a fighter. I am keenly aware that most things outside of myself are not my business. Instead, I know that taking care myself, doing what I can to be healthy, is a big enough job that I don’t need the rest of the universe to line up in my favor to be happy and to have serenity. Peace comes from within.

Self care is not being selfish. Self care is putting myself first so that I can be my best self for everyone else. Embracing a healthy lifestyle is really the only weapon I’ve got in this fight and I allow no excuses when it comes to self care. My weapons are fruits and vegetables, sneakers and exercise machines but I fight now knowing I have a better chance of winning the war one battle at a time if I just take good care of myself.