Pax, I do have something to offer. I hope it has some meaning for folks.
I used to be a dancer. I don't mean professionally, but very serious amateur--like, two hours of ballet class six days a work, performing in some Nutcrackers, etc. I worked full time and then went to the ballet studio afterwards. It was my second home and my most beloved world. I ended up having to quit when I developed an extremely painful fibromyalgia syndrome. I probably spent close to a decade being devastated--sad, angry, not knowing what to do, gaining a lot of weight from the only medication that helped with the severe chronic muscle pain (amitriptyline, for those who want to know). I finally went off the medication and the pain stayed tamped down for many years for no clear reason. But my weight set point had changed--hard to get it all off.
Then my husband started riding his bike again. I looked at that and said, hey, I used to like doing that. I started riding again. More and more. Then I got interested in triathlons. I got a coach and did sprints and Olympics for about five years (2008-2013). And THEN I developed a tendon deterioration syndrome in one ankle and was advised by multiple ankle surgeons not to run anymore. So...no more triathlons.
I find I still like to ride and I ride about 80-100 miles a week (except during vacations or when workload overcomes my free time). A lot of my rides these days are on the Sammamish River Trail looking for wildlife. I've watched two seasons of osprey chicks being born and growing up. I watch otter families on the river. I've watched woodpeckers make nestholes in trees, hatch their chicks, and have seen the chicks fed and fledge. I saw a weasel lately for the first time ever. I watched two barn owl families grow up under bridges on the river trail this year. And also I still hike. We're about to do a long weekend of hikes at Glacier Park.
I list all that to say that I have finally come to realize that no matter what gets taken away from me as my body declines to keep cooperating on some activity, I will by God get up and find other activity doors to walk through, as long as I possibly can. The losses of things I love--especially ballet--have been really hard. But I've gotten better at understanding that I will never just give up, so I might as well start looking for the next open doors that I might want to wander through. It's the best I can do with the frailty of being human.
I too think it's fabulous that you have been a firefighter. I have solid faith that you WILL find those new things. You seem like a strong soul to me.
"My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved;I have been given much and I have given something in return...Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and an adventure." O. Sacks