My name is Mercy, I'm 49 years old born in Havana, Cuba and living in Atlanta, Georgia for 30 years. I have been in banking for 29 years and at the time I was diagnosed with PAN, I was a Vice President and Branch Manager at the Regions Bank Atlanta Main Office. I have always been a very active individual, independent that often times put other's needs ahead of mine.
Two years ago, I had a hysterectomy and after being at home for a few days, noticed that my incision dressing was getting too wet. Went to the doctor's office and discovered that I had a cut in my bladder. A catheter was placed so the bladder will heal on it's own (it took almost two months), the incision was cleaned and went home. A week later I developed high fever, went to the doctor's office.
I had an infection, the incision had to be opened at the doctor's office (no anesthesia), he had to go through a few layers of skin to make sure he got it all and I was admitted to the hospital, where, cultures were taking and I started taking antibiotics. Two days later, I was told. I had Staphylococcus Aureus, Group B Streep, Enterococcus and Coagulase Negative Staph infections. An infectious disease specialist came in to find an antibiotic that would kill all the infections. After a week in the hospital and two more month at home it was over..........or so I thought.
I think these infections caused PAN. What do you think? May 1999, admitted to the hospital with severe abdominal pain on the left side, after three days there and upper GI, X-rays, Scans and Lab work I was sent home, taking antibiotics..- It might have been a viral infection, the doctor said.- . From May to August, I just didn't feel good. The aching in the abdomen continue, I was tired all the time, pain in all my joints, specially in the mornings and a lack of concentration and effectiveness at work, I was beginning to think I was loosing it.
Iin August I had the worst case of abdominal pain, vomiting and almost past out on my way to the hospital. After more Scans, X-rays, Lab work, an exploratory surgery and an Angiogram, I was finally diagnosed the weekend of Halloween with PAN. I was referred to a Rheumatologist, Dr. Kimberly Wilson, the best partner you could ask for to deal with this.
Life began with Prednisone and Cytoxan. Bye, bye, energy and hello to looking like a blimp, LOL . We got to have humor!!!! What a shock!! It was a relief to at least know that I was not crazy or imagining all my symptoms but it was scary to have a chronic illness that changes your life in every way. Emotionally, financially, socially and physically.
I forgot to mention that since April 1999, I was separated and going through a divorce, needless to say, my stress level was high which did not help. Depression, self-pitying, isolation. Uncertainty of being able to go back to work, frustration of working so hard for so many years to achieve your goal, and now if going back, the possibility of being at a different level which would affect your income. You apply for long term disability and after two months nothing has been decided and there is no income.
This illness have helped me find my spirit, I'm at peace and feel that I'm in a plane, with God as the pilot, I don't know where I'm going, but He does and I trust Him. It's hard for some of us to understand why we have to endure this illness, but, God chooses his strongest children for the hardest challenges, so I know we are very special.
A year and a half later, I am no longer taking Cytoxan or any chemotherapy drugs and I'm at 12.5mg/10mg alternating daily on Prednisone. Changing the dosage every two weeks by 2.5mg. Feeling so much better! I have a new Rheumatologist that seems to have a smaller practice than my first one and can be reached when in need. It's been such a challenge to overcome and I know that I'm not there yet, but the beauty of it is that I'm still me but better.
I'm closer to God and ask Him to take care of me in a way I could never do on my own. I'm kinder to myself which helps me be kinder to others. I've learned to accept what I cannot control without getting angry or frustrated. I've learned to ask for help and to receive from others without feeling guilty or ashamed. I've learned to appreciate each and every day that I'm allowed to enjoy the beauty of nature, love and friendship.
Last but not least, I have been blessed with a Pan Family that have touched my heart and life in a way I could never explained. Their stories, courage, support, love and friendship are the prescriptions I needed to be where I am today. Their humor and ability to laugh have given me tears of joy that have made it easier when shedding tears of sadness for the ones that were not able to overcome their challenges.