Ten years ago, at the young age of 29, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Graves’ Disease affects less than 3% of the population and occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid. While it’s treatable, there’s no cure. It took almost 2.5 years and two treatments before I was on my way back to wellness.
Besides the health aspect giving me quite the scare, it also made me view my future a little differently. Both my endocrinologist and GP confirmed that once you have one autoimmune disease, you are at a slightly higher risk to develop another. Graves’ is bad, but the thought of getting MS, RA, or lupus terrifies me. Those are degenerative and can be truly debilitating. My doctor has downplayed this connection but it’s still a very real possibility.
By no means do I live my life in fear. I try to take good care of myself (although I could do better, if I’m being honest) and I see my doctor annually. But after one health scare, I’m fully aware of what can happen and just how hard on the body it is. What if I get sick and can’t work until I’m 67? Sure, there’s disability via Social Security, but would that be enough?
Being sick is not something I’m planning on but it’s certainly something that I want to be prepared for. By setting a goal to be financially independent by the time I’m 50, I feel much better about what may come. Knowing that I wouldn’t have to deal with a full time job while battling an illness brings me peace of mind. I’ve done it once and definitely don’t want to do it again. Even if I don’t have enough saved to officially retire, I know that I could take a couple years off and return to the workforce once I’m healthy again.
Having an autoimmune disease hasn’t made me fear for my health or my future. But it has definitely opened up my eyes and made me determined to be better prepared for whatever the future may hold. It’s my responsibility, and mine alone, to ensure a secure financial future. I have the benefit of dealing with an illness while being covered by comprehensive medical insurance, where other people have not been so lucky. This has allowed me to recover without suffering financially, and has given me time to prepare for the future.
Have you ever faced an illness that changed your perspective, for better or for worse?