Nov. 5, 2016

Three years ago today, my life changed.

Three years ago, today, my life changed.  I thought my life was over.  My dreams were shot to death when my doctor’s first words to me were, “I can’t tell you how sorry I am ...”  No greeting, no “how are you today?”  The sadness in his eyes confirmed what I thought I knew even before he uttered the words.  My body curled into a ball and I broke.  I couldn’t remember breaking down in front of someone else prior to this.  The sorrow and despair I felt was all-consuming.  My doctor even shed a few tears for me.  I had never seen that or had that happen before.

I was told that I had to see a specialist for the rest of my life.  Prior to this day, I was pretty healthy.  I rarely got sick and if I did, it was once a year.  My immune system was shutting down and if I didn’t see the specialist and start treatment, I would be dead by the end of the year.  I didn’t assume this, my doctor told me this.  He was surprised that I wasn’t bedridden yet.  He didn’t say it unkindly.  I believe that he was trying to impart the importance of seeing the specialist right away.  He told me that I needed to start treatment right away.  But he also told me that he wanted to see me beat this and live a long and healthy life.

Can you imagine being told that if you didn’t start treatment right away that you wouldn’t live past the next two months?  To say that it’s scary is a huge understatement.  It’s beyond terrifying.  I began to imagine all the dreams I had die.  All the research and knowledge that I had conducted and obtained over the past three decades regarding this disease didn’t help in any way.  Intellectually, I knew the facts and statistics.  With treatment, I could possibly live a long life, or longer than people who had this disease did.  Emotionally, it was the end of the world.  Three little letters signified something that would end my life, or at least that’s what I believed.

However, I have learned a lot about other people and about myself.  In a way, I’m grateful.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that this disease is a good thing for anyone.  I don’t believe that anyone deserves it.  Okay, maybe the people that destroy the lives of others on purpose and with glee.  One of the reasons that I am grateful is because I learned that regardless of what I can see, everyone is fighting something and I need to be sensitive to that.  I may be able to give them relief from their fight.  I learned who are real friends and who are the imposters.  It made my heart tougher and I'm glad.  Another reason I'm grateful is that I learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I could be.

Treatment, as I was told by a few nurses and physicians alike, is similar to chemotherapy that cancer patients receive, only without the hair loss.  Within a month (thanks to delays with insurance), I was taking twenty-two pills a day.  Twenty-two pills!  My body felt like there was a war going on within it.  All of the medications were fighting a virus and multiple infections.  My kidneys were shutting down.  My liver was following their lead.  Nausea and vomiting were my “best friends”.  My body forgot what it was like to not have pain.  I had to avoid anyone with a cold, the flu, or any other communicable disease or condition.  My new specialist warned that contact with them could end my life.  Then it was taking longer than usual for me to mentally focus on things.  That drove me crazy!  Multitasking was difficult for once in my life.  I couldn’t control my reaction to anything.  With all of this, I had to accept that my life would never be the same. 

As dramatic as it sounds, I wanted to die.  I don’t handle change well and my world was turned inside out, upside down, sideways, and backwards.  Often, I wished for death.  I was scared to tell anyone besides my best friends.  I couldn’t stand the thought of friends turning their backs on me.  Rejection is always painful and I wasn’t sure I could handle that on top of the war inside my body.  Since then, I learned that I can handle a lot of pain, whether it is physical, emotional, or mental.

This three-letter disease taught me that I’m not just a fighter.  I am a powerhouse.  It will not win.  I punch this disease in the throat whenever it chooses to try to defeat me.  Even though I have since been diagnosed with cancer amongst other things, I am determined to show this disease who’s the boss.  One day, when it tries to defeat me, I will simply lift an eyebrow and it will run away with its tail tucked.

I was told twice since then that I was expected to die.  I wasn’t supposed to live past two months after diagnosis, then I wasn’t supposed to survive to my birthday the following year.  It has been three years.  So, happy three-year anniversary to me.  I am a fighter.  I am a survivor.  I am a powerhouse.  I am the storm.  And best of all, I am blessed.

Until later…be safe and be kind to one another.