Audrey is a strong, independent and self-sacrificing single mother of two daughters who has come a very long way to where she is now. When I first heard of Audrey’s sharing, I felt that I could resonate with her on many levels. Especially on the part of her being a dedicated, hardworking and committed employee. I was very touched by her determination to persevere through all her hardships, and thankfully now everything turned out well.
About 13 years ago, Audrey’s life was saddled with marital issues and torrents of responsibilities that arisen from the conflict. Her then-husband was having an extramarital affair and she was forced to leave her house after a few years with both of her daughters. She was struggling to make ends meet, and the very thought of losing her job crippled her. She always put her two daughters, aged 6 and 3-years old as her priority, and she felt that keeping her job is the only way she could cope with the financial distress as a result of the separation.
Audrey was incredibly versatile, making the switch from a full-time housewife back to be a qualified early childhood educator, to being a chartered secretary to cope with the rising commitments for single motherhood. She is truly one tough cookie who never bow down to fate and give up. She morphed into a stronger person and took up the challenges head on.
As a single mother, she was working long hours and had to deal with her health issues as well as raising her kids alone. She also had to oversee the construction of a house on her parent’s land after she was made to leave her matrimonial house as a result of the divorce.
These throngs of challenges and stress has exacerbated Audrey’s health problems. Serious skin rashes were her first symptom of SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus). She had to face the results of the SLE diagnosis alone, and the barrage of other adversities happening at almost the same time. Health problems has come as no stranger in SLE patients’ lives, but the variety of Audrey’s health issue really shocked me, as I could not phantom how strong one’s will have to be to pull through all these physical and mental pain.
Her SLE has moved from skin involvement to chronic kidney involvement, which is also known as Lupus Nephritis Class V. She also had a myriad of other health issues, such as shingles, high fever, stage 3 hypertension, swelling in the body, excruciating joint pain, heavy menstruation (menorrhagia), hair loss, memory loss, skin thinning, frequent urination, constipation, diarrhea, dry skin, dry mouth and lips, stretch marks, moon face and dry eyes. She is a frequent visitor in hospitals and wards and had to go whenever SLE acts up. She is also on various medications in order to treat the symptoms of the attacks.
Two of the health issues brought a rude awakening to Audrey. Now when she looked back, she realised that both events could have grave consequences.
One morning in September 2014 when she was working in the office, she felt a sudden sharp tightness in her chest and she was experiencing cold sweat, difficulty in breathing and dizziness. Amid this she fell unconscious. Miraculously after several hours she woke up and continued working. She only went to the Emergency Room the next day. She was immediately admitted to the hospital as her blood pressure was very high. Subsequently it was proven to be a heart attack and she could have just left the world if not for her will to survive. When she shared with the counselling group, everyone was shocked at how work could make her neglect her life. We could all feel her deep fear for losing her job.
Another time she accidentally twisted her ankle and did not bandaged it nor did she take much time to follow-up with the doctor. She feared that those actions would cause her to lose her job, as she has already taken quite a lot of sick leave due to her SLE attacks. She worried that a bandage leg will further impress upon her employer that she will not be able to perform her duties and responsibilities. It did not help that the human resources department asked her to convert her medical leave to annual leave. She was under duress and tremendous pressure to not seek proper treatment on the twisted ankle. She was physically and mentally exhausted that she did not have the energy to argue with HR, and so she just did as she was told, and continued working the usual workload.
In June 2017, the Orthopedic informed her that she did not just twist her ankle, but her Achilles tendon has completely ruptured with little chances of revival. The specialist refused to operate on her because of the high tendency of SLE patients to get infections as they were on immune-depressant medications. She was referred to a physiotherapist. She was depressed as she contemplated the possibility of her being limp forever. She questioned her decision for being so self-sacrificing in order to secure her job and that she has neglected her health. She also found that the nephrologist that she was following up with was not professional and did not refer her to an orthopedic despite her updating the doctor diligently on her state of health.
In the second half of 2018, after an avalanche of SLE attacks and family issues that resulted in emotional turmoil, Audrey’s two daughters pleaded that she stop trying to be strong, as they do not want to see her body to eventually succumb to SLE. They said they are now grown-up and could start working to shoulder the household’s financial commitments. Audrey considered the fact that two of her SLE acquaintances whom passed away due to complications from the attacks and decided to take her daughters’ advice by quitting her job. She spent six months resting at home and saw gradual improvement to her state of health. She has seen a reduction in joint pain and her state of mind is now more relaxed. She reflected to her earlier years when she was busy chasing her goals, such as working full-time to support her professional certifications, helping her family, supporting her marriage and children but neglected her health.
She believes that everyone should focus on their own health before sacrificing their own health and time for work or help others. Nothing is forever, especially if you are no longer alive, then nothing else matters. She considered herself fortunate as after struggling for more than 13 years, her babies had grown up to be well-behaved and academically excellent daughters. She will do her best to continue moving forward, hope for the best and take life one step at a time.