Choose your hard, disability edition

Have you seen that meme that goes something like, “Being rich is hard. Being poor is hard. Choose your hard. Being healthy is hard. Being sick is hard. Choose your hard”?

I’ve been thinking about that meme the past 24 hours because life is getting harder by the day. Being flatfooted was hard, but I could still walk and stand and dance like a normal person. Having hypermobile feet was hard but I could still climb stairs. Chemotherapy was hard but I still worked full time. Radiation was the worst, and I could have kept my job, but there was a change in management and I knew I couldn’t physically keep up with the new demands so I stepped down. It probably wouldn’t have been so hard if I had taken better care of my health before the cancer, but I hated to exercise and I love bread, cheeseburgers and bourbon too much. I guess you could say I chose my hard.

It’s been two years since my last radiation treatment, and one year since Herceptin last flowed through my port, which I still have implanted in my chest. Yesterday, I tried to put on a pair of earrings I had bought from a friend. I thought I had lost them but was so happy I found them while cleaning my den the other day. But the neuropathy in my fingertips—a permanent side effect of the chemo—made it difficult to deal with the earring backs. I did it, though, because I was hell-bent on wearing those freakin’ earrings. I chose my hard.

The whole reason I went out was to run some errands, one of them being taking my car in for an oil change. To get to the service center, I had to climb up two steps, and a few yards later, down another step. None of the steps had handrails. I have a loss of proprioception—the sense that tells the body where it is in space; it affects my coordination, posture, body awareness, mental focus, and speech. I can’t climb steps without a handrail, and even if there is a handrail, my knees are messed up and it’s painful to climb. But I wanted Sammie (my 2015 Ford Escape) to have her 30,000 mile beauty treatment, so I chose my hard and climbed up and down the damn steps.

I have been trying all month to get my apartment clean. Yesterday, I got as far as vacuuming the front room when my feet gave out. The pain was too much to handle and they would not physically support me. So I had to sit down the rest of the evening with my feet elevated. I got up at one point, though, because I had the overwhelming desire to stretch, so I tried to do the workout routine my personal trainer taught me. I was appalled that my muscles had now atrophied so bad that I could barely squat an inch. I struggled through the rest of the exercises, including my stretches from physical therapy, but it was hard.

 This morning, as I write this, I’m still in excruciating pain—just from vacuuming and climbing up and down three freakin’ steps yesterday. In the past, I’ve taken Gabapentin and Percocet, but the former made me suicidal and the latter required a prescription from a pain management doctor and Summit Pain Management wouldn’t return my numerous calls and emails. I haven’t had a regular dose of opioids since April 2020 other than the 10 days in June for my hysterectomy. My current pain management choice is bourbon and an over-the-counter NSAID called Aleve. I also take fermented turmeric, ubiquinol, omega-3, and a bunch of other nutritional supplements. They don’t get me up to a fully functional level, but I’ve chosen my hard.

As for the line about “being poor is hard,” I don’t have a steady income right now. My copywriting business has a handful of clients, but I physically and mentally cannot take on anymore work than I already have. It’s too much for me to handle physically and mentally. Between that and my husband’s modest income, we’re able to pay our bills as long as we keep our expenses low, but there’s no room to buy a house, go on vacation, or splurge on a fancy dinner for our anniversary. He’s a disabled military veteran, so he’s limited in his income-generating ability too.

I’ve applied for Supplemental Security Disability Income, but we all know the SSDI game: File a claim. Get denied. Hire an attorney. File an appeal. Get denied again. Request a hearing with an administrative judge. If your attorney is good, you’ll win your claim, but it will be about three years before you see any money, and even though you get backpay, your attorney gets 25 percent of that. I even had my congressman conduct a congressional inquiry. His office just called yesterday saying they’ve been trying to get through to the Social Security Administration office, but no one is answering.

Life is hard. But I count my blessings along with my tears, and although my choices are limited, I play the cards I’ve been handed, hoping to find that elusive ace that I can keep (nod to Kenny Rogers).

Published by Gwen Clayton

Gwen Clayton is a freelance writer living in Ashland, Kentucky. She is the former editor of the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, and has written for numerous other publications since 1986. Her first book, the paranormal thriller "Fermata Cellars," was published in 2016, and her Bible-inspired short story, "Purr: A story of love, lions and a Hebrew named Daniel," was released in 2019. She recently finished writing, "Zinfandel’s Grimoire," which is the sequel to 'Fermata;' that book is in the editing and design phase of publication. Her current works in progress include the third book in the Rivervine Trilogy, tentatively titled, "Comatis Unveiled," and the nonfiction, "Dragon's Poker Table: A rocker chick's breast cancer journey." Her books are independently published under the imprint, Rivervine LLC. In addition to writing books, Clayton contracts as a copywriter for local, small businesses.

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