I tend to still have that reaction to stress or sadness or fear. I fold inward. I hide. I hope for the reprieve of silence and stillness. The past month has been rough, and so I’ve curled in upon myself. At times physically, definitely mentally.
A little more than a month ago, I found myself at the end of a rather long medical journey. On a path that has spanned more than a decade, several doctors, major surgery, countless blood tests, daily pills, every other day injections, all resulting in limited to no improvement. I had to make the choice between having regular invasive surgeries and hope that it could control the symptoms for a year or more in between, or to have one final surgery that will offer a new quality of life, but close a large door. After consulting doctors, researching options, discussing things with the people in my life whom I most trust and respect, and most of all having long heart-wrenching talks with my husband, I will have just one more surgery. I will not have the chance to carry more children, even if my body would have cooperated. My heart twists inside me typing those words. And immediately I want to back away. Turn inward. Create my own reality. But that isn’t how to go forward. And that isn’t how to live in this world. With my husband. With our beautiful girls. With the family and friends that I love.
Now I’ve found the right surgeon, who spent hours with us, past closing, long after the main lights were switched off and the rest of the staff had gone home. He, my husband, and I talking through every possible option and every possible result. Talking through each and every benefit and risk of every winding path. And here we are with a plan and an operating room booked; With three days in the hospital scheduled, and then two weeks of rest, and a six to eight week recovery. For my body at least.
And as each piece was planned and confirmed, until there was nothing left to do but wait, I did something out of character… I unfurled. In the slowest, smallest of ways. I reached out tenuous tendrils. When people asked how things were going, I didn’t flash a practiced smile and give a chirpy one word answer, before turning all the attention back to the asker. I spoke my truth. And I shared my reaction to it. There was grief for the known, some fear for the unknown, but now there was hope filtering in as well. Friends who have walked this path before me, have spoken up, have offered their love and commiseration, have spent time sharing their experiences and wisdom. There have been the friends who have never seen this road, but have arrived with hugs and offers of prayers and meals and tangible help. There have been friends who have cried with me, others who have made me laugh when I most needed it, and finally one who reminded me of my warrior heart and helped me rediscover my bravery.
When I shared that I may need to donate blood for myself before the procedure, I discovered that I shared a blood type with one of my oldest friends and one of my newest. Not because I told them, but because they asked, which I thought was odd until they followed up the discovery of our shared physical makeup with an offer: They wanted to give me their blood. If I needed it. Would I put them down on the paperwork in case the doctors needed to call for donations?
I can’t tell you the impact that had on me, because suddenly I saw this amazing gift that was opening around me. When I finally had the courage to reach out, people responded. They not only desired to help and give and love and support, they did it from the depths of their spirits, from the inner recesses of their hearts, from their very life’s blood. All the ways in which I am forever trying to love and support and help those around me, but never feel worthy of receiving myself, are appearing in my life like a shower of roses. I feel so deeply humbled and grateful to the point of awe.
People are good and loving and generous and kind… and I’m not alone in the dark.