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Check engine light

I know. I get it. NO one EVER wants to see this symbol light up on their car’s dash…no one…I mean, if you’re anything like me and my family, we’ve had a much harder time making ends meet over the last few years due to the increased cost of living, so really any unexpected bill stimulates a significant stress response! Don’t get me wrong. I have a lovely life and I know there are many people who have a much harder go than I do, but I’ve noticed…and I hear you…and it’s been H.A.R.D. SO! When this light came on, I said to myself, “It can’t be THAT bad, right!?!” I mean…I don’t hear any weird noises or see any smoke… I can just keep right on driving…right!? Weeeeeellll…maybe? But maybe not.

Truth is, lately I’ve been wondering if this warning light, on this particular vehicle has been ON more than it’s been OFF. Seriously. Last week it was on (again) and this time accompanied by a “sound” …I’d try to describe it to you, but y’all would laugh at me…even harder than the mechanic did when I described it to him over the phone. #truestory

My mechanic is actually a really good dude. He’s honest and fair…and only fixes what he finds to be broken, and ONLY after talking to us first…pretty great right!? BIG shout out to our mechanic for keeping us on the road!! You’re welcome for all the business we generate…LOL

So, this last time that the check engine light was on, although I really didn’t want to have to pay for yet another car repair #amirite!?!? I reluctantly brought my car into the shop. They were able to look at it as soon as I got there, so I chose to stay, see what needed to be fixed and then decide if the repair could wait for another day…or if it was unsafe to drive IYKYK.

After only 20 minutes, there was a diagnosis, and I was assured it could be fixed immediately and it would take only another 20-30 minutes…great! The gentleman explained what needed to be done and of course I nodded, stood with one hand on my hip and one hand cradling my chin…looking as interested and “into” the conversation as I could be (while understanding nothing!)…and gave the “ok” to go ahead with the repair.

True to their word, the car was down and off the hoist within 30 minutes and I bravely prepared myself for the final bill. Terrified, I stood at the counter, doing my best not to leaf through my wallet, trying to decide if I should pay with debit or credit…meanwhile, a Rolodex of silent self-talk was spinning away in my head…. “It will be fiiiiine. You can afford this?? You need the car to be working! Deep breath, it can’t be that bad.” 

After punching into the register what seemed to be a LOT of numbers for a 30 min repair, the mechanic said to me, “My boss isn’t in right now and I have no idea how to make out an invoice for you. Do you have $30 cash?” Insert my blank stare. Insert my loooooooong blank stare. “I’m sorry, did you say $30?” He nodded. Maintaining sustained eye contact with my new best friend, I dug my wallet out of my purse and unzipped it. I fished out two bills and HOPED that when I looked down at them in my trembling hand, at least ONE of them would be green. Two! There were two. Green. Bills. Sweet!!! Side note: Green is the colour of the $20 dollars bill in Canada. Trying to remain calm and supress my about to explode all over the room joy, I handed him the bills and said, “I’d really like you to keep the change. Are the keys in the car?” He nodded and thanked me…I think…actually, I can’t quite remember because I basically RAN out of the office, jumped in my car, and sped away…you know…before he could change his mind about the price!!! LOL

Now, why did I tell you all of this? To brag that I had THE cheapest car repair in the history of all car repairs!?!? No, no. But it was pretty great eh!?!? 

Rather, this experience got me thinking…

I’ve had RA now for nearly 15 years. 15. In those 15 years, I’ve come to learn a lot about my body and how it functions (or doesn’t LOL). And one of THE most important things I’ve learned is its “warning signs” or its “check engine lights.” Right after being diagnosed 15 years ago, I attended an education session to help me understand my meds, my condition, and my body – more specifically how to identify subtle changes/signs of inflammation in my joints that could lead to bigger changes/problems – and what to do when they occur. And low and behold, 15 years later, I STILL use the same techniques and same algorithms I learned back then to help me manage/cope/understand/observe my body and know when to wait and when to act! 

It’s been SO important for me to understand my warning signs! Think about it. Who best to watch for changes than the person who sees you every day…YOU! Get to know your joints. Get to know the signs that something might be going on in your body that needs attention. Learn about what you can do to manage those symptoms on your own and when to seek medical help. Use whatever technique works best for you to watch for trends and changes. Maybe keep a diary or make notes on your phone’s calendar or in the notes app to collect thoughts and stay organized. Whatever you do, bring it with you when you see your doctor…information is key in sorting out what’s been going on.

And remember! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from an expert!! It’s not always a big repair that’s required…sometimes it’s just a $30 fix and you’ll be back on the road, heading to where you wanted to go in the first place!


person with rheumatoid arthritis