I didn’t believe the doctor when she told me she could help me get better. I sat in the chair waiting for my blood draw, for the hundredth time this year. I watched as the phlebologist inserted vial after colored vial into the tube that pulled the blood from my arm. Ten vials later, her task completed. I played the waiting game.
I waited another month through pain and tears consoling myself that she would find it. She had promised. But like so many doctors before her, they had promised too. They pointed me towards diets and pain management strategies. They suggested therapy and massages. I gave up meat, gluten which about killed me because I love bread. I ate salads and fruit. I learned to feast on a diet of quinoa and nut cheese. But after all the deprivation and substitutions I remained at square one, in pain with no hope of it ever ending.
Hope is a fickle friend. It never stays around long. When I have been so bold as to have hope that my situation would change, I have always been disappointed. There is no hope and yet still inside of me, is the slightest of sparks waiting to catch flame.
I sat in the office, knowing, feeling it in my bones that this was it, the answer at last. We went over my results, pages, and pages of reports that revealed numerous deficiencies and abnormalities. All of which could be corrected.
I started my regimen of pills. I followed my dietary changes to the letter. I avoided all of the things I loved in favor of feeling better. The changes came slowly. I remember the first time I slept through the night in years like a mother fondly recalling her child’s first step. It didn’t occur to me that it had happened until I woke up, refreshed, ready to start my day. It was amazing. I told everyone I knew that I slept through the night only to get strange looks in return.
They didn’t understand because up until that point, I mostly concealed my illness. Only those closest to me knew about the nights I sat up staring at the ceiling. The days that started at two am because I couldn’t stay another minute in a bed that hurt every section of my body. They didn’t see me fall, literally, downstairs, walking down hallways, because I pushed my body to its limits and it just gave out. I was determined to persevere in spite of my illness.
In days that followed, I continued to sleep through the night and slowly, the pain drained from my body a little more. By the second week, I was almost pain-free. It was a feeling I hadn’t had in years. I felt like me again. I did my hair. I played baseball with the kids in the backyard. I took my dog for a walk. It was the simplest of things that would bring me unimaginable joy, being able to be held and not feel pain. To receive a hug that only brought consolation.
I told my children and watched their relieved faces at the notion that Mom was finally getting better. They were forced early on to learn how to take care of themselves because try as I might, I just couldn’t do it all the time. My daughter later confided in me that she had prayed for me, every night without fail. She didn’t want to tell me before in case God got mad at her for saying something and wouldn’t grant her prayer. She’s nine and thinks prayers work like birthday wishes.
My grandmother used to say, “All good things must come to an end.” The end for me came sooner than I anticipated. It started slowly, the same way it began. A few days of sleepless nights would portend my descent. I ignored it at first. I blamed my allergy medication. Or perhaps I had too much to eat before I went to bed. I wanted the explanation to be anything but what I knew to be true. It was coming back.
I was bold enough to dream of life pain-free. I saw myself in my forties being able to travel and do all of the things a month ago I thought I would never do again. I could wash my hair and not need assistance going up the stairs. I would be able to walk like someone in their late thirties instead of their late eighties. The freedom I felt to do whatever I wanted without having to take my illness into account was akin to being released from prison. My body had become my prison and the sentence passed is for life.
My furlough short-lived. Every day I wake up in a bit more pain than the day before. The hope I had had all but faded away, what remains is anger. The anger one feels when they draw the short straw. Only I’ve pulled the short straw my entire life and once, once I dared to hope my fate would change.
I don’t plan on telling anyone, especially my children that I’m getting worse again. I’ll hide it for as long as I can because I refuse to take away their hope. My illness has stripped away so much from them. Life isn’t fair, but it’s not a lesson that they need to learn anytime soon.
Oddly, I wish I would have never gotten better. I’ve been in pain so long that I couldn’t remember life any other way. Having three weeks without it was more of a curse than a blessing. Now I remember. I remember what I’ve lost and what I may never have again.