Our Christmas trip to Mexico was planned way back in the summer but by the time it came around I was dreading it. And not because Trump says it’s full of murderers and rapists. 🙄
Since I fell unconscious at my birthday dinner in September, I developed a blood infection which for anyone with RA means more than just a few days of antibiotics – more like 2 months of antibiotics. The knock on effect being I also had to stop my chemo and biologics, as immunosuppressants exacerbate infection. This lead to a major RA flare which inconveniently coincided with major flares of my some of my dermatological autoimmune illnesses. It felt like I had acid thrown in my face, constant fevers and pain all over. This A.I. tag team tortured me every second of every day and night and to top it all off, all of my specialists were prescribing conflicting meds. I was depressed, desperate and at the end of my tether. It got to the stage where I was being called in for emergency hospital and GP appointments almost every other day. And I just wanted to be left alone because chronic illness is also unforgivably exhausting. One doctor was so upset from not knowing what to prescribe without triggering another illness, I felt like consoling him, but I didn’t. I just left in a daze.
Meanwhile the emergency steroids didn’t seem to be touching the RA and I was anxious about how I was going to manage in Mexico. Just getting through an airport and enduring a flight is a nightmare with RA, never mind managing the actual holiday. And with a RA flare on no biologics, I knew it would all be a million times worse. The final emergency appointment saw my rheumatologist increasing my steroid dose. And then the fun began….
The final emergency appointment saw my rheumatologist increasing my steroid dose. And then the fun began….
The flight was not too bad and leg room pretty good. However one meal on a 12hr flight? Not ok British Airways, not ok at all! The small child who kept running up and down the aisle was starting to look like tasty a baguette and I don’t even eat bread.
On landing in Mexico we headed for downtown Tulum which so far has escaped the all-inclusive tourist trap of Cancun. Beautiful weather, delicious food and the friendliest people welcomed us – who we got to practice our limited Spanish on (being no English spoken). Being a foodie that’s mostly greetings and food related words! But most importantly I felt strong with energy every day.
For example this happened within just one day trip:
- I trekked through the jungle with spider monkeys
- Zip lined screaming over a crocodile infested lagoon
- Kayaked over a lagoon (ok, sat in kayak whilst boyfriend and another man rowed)
- Lowered 20 metres underground to swim in an ancient Mayan cenote cave filled with bats (before a Mexican small child dangling on a wood and rope ladder told us we had to *climb* back up!)
- Blessed in a Mayan ceremony in the jungle
- Bike rode through more jungle
- Climbed 130ft up (and down!) pyramid Coba.
All of which was executed in blazing sun and 30C+ heat! At this point my boyfriend was calling me Lara Croft! It was not easy but it felt amazing to have achieved it all. This was beyond anything I could ever have imagined. A far cry from just a few weeks beforehand where being out for a few hours meant I could not move for days after. I actually turned to my boyfriend that day and said, “if I die tomorrow I’ll die very happy!” And I meant it.
I actually turned to my boyfriend that day and said, “if I die tomorrow I’ll die very happy!”
However I didn’t die, I lived to fly to Mexico City where we visited Teotihuacan a huge ancient Aztec site where we learnt of the very ‘Apocalypto’ historical events that used to take place! Here I walked the Avenue of the Dead before climbing 45 metres up the Pyramid of the Moon albeit in a very inappropriate floaty summer dress. However I drew the line at the neighbouring gargantuan Pyramid of the Sun. But being the 3rd highest pyramid in the world, I didn’t feel too bad.
There were days when I was walking ahead of my boyfriend with him lagging behind. I couldn’t help but think if this is what being able bodied feels like then why are so many people so miserable? Why aren’t they skipping around everyday buzzing?! Because I sure was!
I couldn’t help but think if this is what being able bodied feels like then why are so many people so miserable?
We were even lucky enough to tour Frida Khalo’s house, which has 3 hr queues around the block every day. A childhood idol of mine, it was a real privilege to walk around her now famous blue azule house, filled with her painful artwork, stunning dresses and personal items. But it was seeing her splints, prosthetic legs, adjusted shoes and wheelchair poised in front of her easel which felt very poignant, many aids of which I have used over my lifetime. I admired how she retained the will to paint, something which was a casualty of my diagnosis for a long time.
Mexico was a magical place with a fascinating history and rich culture which will fuel your mind, body and soul. We also met the most wonderful people, spent our days on beautiful white sandy beach with turquoise water, swam with turtles, ate delicious street food; pozole and tacos al pastor downtown and in the mercados, dined in the jungle at night (before encountering big four-legged animal in said dark jungle), joined a Christmas Eve beach party, unintentionally gatecrashed a New Years Eve hotel pool party and walked along the beach under the night sky filled with a million stars and galaxies.
And as I returned to the UK my steroid spell continued. It was like I had lost the plot, I suddenly considered signing up to everything including indoor rock climbing (I didn’t though!) My wrists are like splinters so this is clearly ridiculous but climbing the cenote wood and rope ladder made me think I could! I did however start a Spanish class!
However the dream could not last forever as I had to start reducing my steroid dose (damaging long term). It will take a while for my hospital to ween me back on to the chemo and biologics. I tried to keep up the level of activity we had done in Mexico, walking lots and even took a yoga class but my hypermobility combined with RA meant my knees bent too far the wrong way so ended up wrecked, inflamed and painful to weight bear. I could also feel the RA feeling creeping back, the all too familiar RA night fevers, fatigue and the heaviness of my body had returned. This was extremely difficult to deal with. I felt like I was mourning my body all over again, like I did when I was diagnosed. Just like everyone with RA or any degenerative chronic illness does when they are diagnosed.
I felt like I was mourning my body all over again, like I did when I was diagnosed. Just like everyone with RA or any degenerative chronic illness does when they are diagnosed.
It was silly because I had only been this good for a few weeks out of 25 years, but it’s amazing how quickly we/ our bodies forget – or want to forget. After all this time ‘acceptance’ seems to be the hardest word.
Steroids don’t always work but this time they did, and although slightly cruel in its briefness, I had a snapshot of an ‘able’ world I never thought I would experience and it was mindblowing. Mexico captured my soul and gave me the trip of a lifetime with the most wonderful person. A lot of people put life experiences off until ‘later’ but the good thing about chronic illness is the insight that there is no such thing as ‘later’. I have seen mine and my friends’ bodies deteriorate and seen other friends die from RA.
A lot of people put life experiences off until ‘later’ but the good thing about chronic illness is the insight that there is no such thing as ‘later’. I have seen mine and my friends’ bodies deteriorate and seen other friends die from RA.
So I am not aiming for that big house or fancy car. Apart from paying the bills and having food on my table, I aim to fill my life with experiences rather than things* with what little money I have. And no matter what happens healthwise, I will forever remember my travels around magical Mexico on steroids with love ❤.
*that said I have just bought an amazing new pair of yellow shoes!