Tuesday, August 12, 2014

All Will be Well

I woke up the morning after Saint Patrick’s Day weekend and felt a strong sense of renewal. My after I am well bucket list now displayed a check mark next to out and about on Saint Patrick’s Day with my life long dancing sister friends. I assumed the fluctuating tide of my health finally turned and I only looked forward. But, my oh my, how I was very wrong, well thought I was very wrong.

The few months prior to the Saint Patrick’s Day weekend, I experienced quite a few health setbacks. This Ohio Winter was rough and icy and cold. My body presented, all too familiar, symptoms like fevers and nausea and loss of appetite. Even though I refused to believe it, I felt a strong sense of the dreaded infection’s return. My doctor seemed uneasy and at a loss as he read aloud my blood reports, MRI reports, and wound culture reports. This is never a positive sign. I spent nine years watching doctors study my reports with a confused and overwhelmed expression. I knew his perplexed face and I knew it well.

Instead of jumping to any extreme conclusions, he aggressively attacked the symptoms. We divided the symptoms and conquered one at a time. However, each time we would test my blood or try a new treatment, the reports returned in more disarray. I remember one day in the office, he looked at the computer, as he read the latest document, and said, “your numbers are all over the place. Some present perfectly well and others are just terrible. I am honestly at a loss. I just want you to be well. I must figure this out.”

So, he powered through the next few months and never relented. I followed each and every order and took every dose of antibiotics he threw my way. The MRI technician said I was certainly a pro as he pushed me into the confining tube, time and time again. When you have as many MRIs as I do, they compare each current MRI with the previous MRI and make a conclusion based on the comparison. And because most of my MRI reports are just terrible, the subsequent new reports always seem a bit better, even when they may not be better. Basically, I showed progress, but still presented very scary symptoms. And luckily, I have a doctor who doesn’t stop. 

The Wednesday after Saint Patrick’s Day, I wheeled in for my regular weekly check up with my doctor. Right away, he didn’t like how I looked. I told him I spent some time out with friends and wasn’t exactly responsible about my vodka and wine intake. He laughed, mainly because he knows this means I had a half of one vodka drink and half of one glass of red wine. He knows my irresponsible behaviour isn’t the normal irresponsible behavior. His larger concern was that I was out for an entire day and wore the signs of exhaustion. This extreme exhaustion from a brief time out is not normal, or so we thought. Without hesitation, he scheduled another visit with my favorite MRI technician and another blood test. 

The blood report came back first and looked awful. I presented half dead. Great. He, immediately, designed his beloved, full court press, his name for the infection treatment plan. I know it's serious when he adopts this go all out, attack, and not sit back plan. As I listened to the play-by-play details, I fought incredibly hard to fight back the giant lump in my throat and the wells of water glistening in my eyes. Because of many years of practice, I took the news like a champ and grinned as if it was Christmas morning. I know he saw right through my transparent acting because he asked, several times, “Are you okay?”

No, I was not okay. In fact, I was pissed and upset and downright angry. I drove home, yelling at every book, every thought leader, including Jesus and Buddha. I questioned why I ever trusted any words, direction, or wisdom any of them offered. I didn’t cry or sob, just yelled and squeezed the steering wheel. I pulled in the drive way, heard my little dog bark with excitement because I was home, and decided to collect myself, for her sake. I fed her and cuddled her and then went into the bathroom, shut the door, and started wailing. With fists in the air and teeth clenched, I screamed with fear and frustration and doubt and anger. I repeatedly asked why me and swore I was not going to go through this again, I simply didn’t have the strength. I allowed this tirade continue for about ten minutes until I calmed down. I probably wore myself out and dried up any tears I had left. At the end of my dramatic bathroom visit, I clasped my hands, looked towards my white ceiling, and prayed. I prayed for a miracle. I prayed for a different perception of the facts. I needed some relief, even if it was just a change in attitude. 

Then, as quickly as perception can shift, I shuttered from a strong wind of gratitude. I expressed sorrow for my anger and begged for forgiveness. I listed everything good in my life and felt ashamed for not recognizing it. And like magic, a sense of peace flooded over me, almost drowning me, and I bowed my head and finally cried healing tears.

Calm was my next visitor on this dark and stormy night and calm helped me craft a solid plan. I designed my own full court press consisting of plays I could actually handle. I reconciled with the fact that this maybe is my life’s path and I best do what I can to put one foot in front of the other and move forward, even if I don't want to now. Moving forward after a great weekend with friends is quite easy...the tiredness and need for the coffee IV seem like a piece of cake compared to moving forward knowing I might have to enter a Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber, put up with daily nursing visits, and endure the pain of yet another PICC line. I calmed down, crafted my plan, and went to bed.

I cried to a few friends the next day and asked another friend to install my AppleTV. I decided I better, once again, prepare for a life of watching television and reading all of the time. And when I talked to this friend and told him what happened, he very confidently said, “You aren’t sick, you are dehydrated. You don’t go out like that very often and your body probably shows extreme results more than most of our bodies. You aren’t sick again and certainly aren’t sick again because of one night out. My guess is, you are just dehydrated.”

I laughed off his kind sentiments. I wanted to believe him, but I knew my body was just more complicated and sensitive than the average person understands. Honestly, I kind of forgot about his diagnosis.

A few days later, I folded the washcloth over my eyes and boarded the stretcher and entered another MRI. This MRI was different though. My doctor firmly requested I use the MRI at my hospital, instead of the one my insurance company always suggests. He wanted to, personally, read the report and wanted it to be independent of any previous reports. Not only at a different location, this MRI was exponentially louder than the others. It was like a jack hammer. They are always loud, but this one completely drowned out Diane Rehm and Terry Gross. I can usually hear both of them loudly and clearly, but I couldn’t hear a word. I actually had to practice my breathing and meditation because I felt a panic attack rising up because of the extremely loud noise. Instead of losing it, I remained calm and found my center. And then I heard this weird voice. This voice, which I call intuition, said to me, “Hey you are fine, nothing is wrong, all will be well.”

In the past I, all too often, ignored this intuitive voice and favored the voice of reason that loudly chatters in my head. But this time, I didn’t care about that other voice, the one that consults fact and reason and blood reports and history, I listened to this calm and quiet and serene voice that was filling me with a soft and oh so comfortable sense of peace. I let the voice of love win. Usually, I try to read the technician’s face and catch a glimpse of the monitor to see if I can see any infection spots, but this time I didn’t care. I knew it would all be well. I just knew it. 

A few days later, I went to the doctor’s office. I waited patently for my turn to go back and kind of wondered why I didn’t feel the pangs of anxiety that normally take over. But, instead of fighting the calm, I just went with it. And wow was my intuition correct. My doctor busted through the door waving a piece of paper in his hand, proclaiming, “Did you hear, did you hear?”

Well, obviously, I didn’t hear anything because he is the one who normally tells me news, but I think the excitement overwhelmed him just as much as it was about to overwhelm me. He read my MRI report over and over again with an emphasis on the part that read, absolutely no signs of infection, reoccurring infection, or chronic infection present. Everything was perfect. My bones that were eaten away by the nasty infection grew back. The chronic infection of my bone that was supposed to accompany me for the rest of my life was gone. Just gone. Not a dot, not a spot, not a dark mark, not anything even closely resembling infection. Clarity. That was the only thing any doctor could see. My doctor had my infectious disease doctor double check the report and he was taken aback as well. My frighteningly low survival rate was now increased to one hundred percent chance of survival

And this time, I allowed the tears to flow. I couldn’t hold back the happy tears, it just wasn’t possible. We reveled in the moment and laughed for the entire rest of the appointment. And towards the end of the appointment my doctor said, “Hey, maybe you were just dehydrated from all of the drinking on St. Patrick’s Day.”

I, apparently, just had the flu several times this winter. And because I am not used to a simple diagnosis, we searched and searched for a reason. Believe me, I am much happier to delve into the rabbit hole of what in the hell is wrong with Sarah, than slap on a simple answer. The simple answer was right after we explored the difficult answers and I am perfectly okay with the exploration process. It was all worth the effort.

Sometimes problems just work out in our favor. Sometimes results come back the way we want them to and sometimes, just maybe, they return better than we ever hoped. I’ve learned a miracle is simply a shift in perception. I chose to believe that voice that shed new light on my infection. I chose to trust this new perception of an old and tiring situation. I am not the girl who is used to good news. I am used to bloody battle fields, not never ending fields of grass and flowers and sunshine. Usually, I have to painstakingly plant that grass and those flowers, all on my own, amongst all of the weeds and dirt and blood. But this time, tulips and roses and lily’s of the valley and green, green grass sprouted all on its own, reminding me, all will be well. My body may still be broken and covered in scars. It may still need healing and have open wounds, but it found a piece of gold and it isn’t letting go of it, not for nothing.

We must practice hope and joy and love and gratitude. We must practice them until they are a conditioned response. So conditioned, that even with the worst news, as hard as it is, we learn to face it with peace. We must give life the full court press of positivity, attack it with the positive, and not sit back or accept anything less. And every once and awhile, when the news turns out to be better than we hoped, the practice pays off big time. We can tap into that joy and gratitude in an instant and ride the rainbow to the waiting pot of gold as it shines and welcomes us with open arms. 

And just to let you know...I went out again with these sisters of mine. We drank and laughed and celebrated and I was just fine. I woke up hydrated with love and hope and joy and gratitude, because that’s the wave I choose to ride right now. So, please hang on, the tide always changes, always. It’s just waiting for us to notice that all will be well. Oh, and I have another blood test tomorrow and I know it will be just fine, just fine.

My Irish Dancing sisters. Full circle.