Monday, October 19, 2015

The BEatitudes

  "This is Kim.  We've become friends.  She always has a smile on her face."

I had to keep myself from dramatically looking over my shoulder in search of someone else named Kim.  Someone else that she could be speaking of.  Someone else that she was introducing to her daughter. 

It couldn't be me.

"......she always has a smile on her face." 

That couldn't be me.  Didn't she know the constant anxiety and sickness that I felt standing in those hallways?  Didn't she know that as Steven and I walked I would mentally recite The Lord's Prayer?  Didn't she know that there were times I thought that I would go crazy if I spent another night in a hospital room?

Didn't she know...me?

*****

As I think about the days spent in the hospital, and the time that she and I had spent talking and getting to know, and lean on, each other, I had to admit that the worry did seem a little bit further behind me.  At least in those moments.  Comforting and supporting her gave ME peace.

The anxiety also seemed a little more distant when I would take advantage of the "happy hour" down at the cafeteria and bring drinks to the nurses.

When I had the inevitable conversation with other families, and patients, about the diagnoses that brought us all to this place, I also found that I was extremely optimistic about the road that they had ahead of them, despite the road that we ourselves had traveled.

How was this presentation of myself so different than the me I knew so well?

It seemed that the public side of me was in stark contrast to the side I saw in the mirror.  The one, that, if taken by surprise, others got to see as well.  I tried to keep this part of me private, so not to mar the surroundings and add to the despair that so many walking this earth are experiencing themselves.

However, I wasn't always successful at hiding that part of me.  Once, when huddled on my cot next to Steven's bed, I couldn't shake the anxiety that had me in its hold.  In fact, just speaking aloud would cause me to break down in tears.  I avoided conversation with Steven, I didn't answer my phone, and I stayed out of the hallways.

When the nutritionist that had followed us, and advised Steven since his last transplant, poked her head into the room, I was caught.

When she looked at me I knew she knew where I was, mentally.

"How are you?"

Not trusting myself to speak I simply shook my head.

She came closer.

I knew I wasn't going to be able to avoid conversation, and I warned her, as tears started flowing, that I was going to cry.

She sat down.

We talked for quite awhile and I explained that I had no real reason to be in this state.  My mind, in its finest form (insert sarcasm), had analyzed and over-analyzed every blood count and fever spike, and relived the last year of Steven's patient history.

I drew comparisons where there weren't comparisons to be drawn.  I saw differences where I didn't want to and similarities in the same place.

I had mentally made myself sick...all because I couldn't predict the future.

And she understood.

Although she didn't face the challenges that I faced, she, like the rest of the population, faced her ownOver thinking, over analyzing, and wanting control in an out of control world...were just a few of the challenges we shared.

As we laughed and joked about our personalities, and the angst it caused our husbands, I found that once again, the worry and anxiety, seemed a little further away.  I was, after all, no longer curled up on the cot.

What began as her comforting me, ended as me voicing my understanding of her, and, I believe, the two gave both of us some solace. 

Isn't it nice knowing that you aren't alone?  Physically and mentally.
 
When she left the room I got up and washed my face, put on my make up and a smile, and, once again, looked forward to "happy hour" in the cafeteria so I could surprise our nurse with tall glass of caffeine to help get her through her shift.

*****

When I think about the different "sides" of me and the transformation I make when going between the two, I really shouldn't be surprised.  I think we all have a choice over which side we spend more time with/in.

I don't believe God intended us to stay in the fetal position, alone, dwelling on what might, or might not, be in our future.  We are supposed to continue forward, living our lives, following Him and being an example of His love in the lives of others.

Jesus is an example of this.  He was human, and had human experiences.  Before his crucifixion he was in so much anguish that he sweat blood in the Garden of Gesthemane.  It has been speculated that it wasn't the knowledge of the horrible death that he was about to endure, but rather the weight of all the sins he would bear - on our behalf , that caused him such agony.  The separation from God that those sins caused was no doubt a form of "hell itself".

However, the humanness in Jesus could have led him to be consumed with anxiety over what was to come.  He could have spent years paralyzed with fear. He could have worried and stayed consumed by despair his entire life. He could have chose to stay in the fetal position.  He could have hid from all those who needed his mercy and comfort, and rather than console and heal, he could have wallowed in his own self-pity.  He could have offered up comparisons..."you think you have it bad?  Well, listen to what I have to do..."  

But he didn't.  Instead, Jesus filled his time with being of service to others. 

And, really, aren't we called to be like him?  Should it be of any surprise to me that my anxiety was lessened by helping, or supporting, others?  Isn't it hard to be sad when you are giving others joy? 

Aren't we all supposed to show Christ's love to others?  And that love, thankfully, doesn't mean turning away from those in need and allowing ourselves to be consumed by our own fear of the future.
 
God has shown us that through His son, Jesus.

If, in the midst of his persecution, he could place the needs of others first, can't we, at the very least, strive to do the same?

"A life not lived for others is not really a life." - Mother Teresa

A life spent in the fetal position worrying about "what ifs" isn't really a life either.  I am challenging you all, and myself, to get out and live.  Live by helping others.  Live by smiling at the cashier.  Live by doing something small.  Live by doing something large.  Live by sharing "happy hour".  Live by taking the focus off of "me" and turning the focus onto others.  Live by taking the focus off of "what if" and turn it towards "what is".

I believe, after looking deeply at my "two sides", that living for others really is the only way to actually "live".

There will always be "what ifs" in this life I am living.  I know all too well that things don't always work out the way that we hope and pray they will. 

But sometimes they do.

In the meantime, strive to be the answer to someone else's prayer.  Or someone else's thirst...

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 
*****

Steven is doing really well, and looks good too.  It does my heart good to see him this way.  He has been walking around the block by the duplex, and is trying to eat more each day. 


We have yet to see his doctor, Dr. Jacoby, but we saw a nurse practitioner last week.  Steven had what looked like the Graft Vs Host rash that I prayed so diligently for last time.  Although it is still considered a good sign, a sign of a working immune system, I know that this time, I can't put my faith in signs.  Signs are great, but they aren't without exceptions.  My faith has to be in God and His will for my husband, and my family.

Steven's counts have continued to rise, which is good.  We are expecting his red blood cells to take a little longer, since he had a mismatched blood type donor. 

I am sure that tomorrow, when Steven sees his doctor, he will start pushing to be released to go home.  We will see what her plans are and what she would like to see from him before giving us the "ok".  He has been taking prednisone for the rash, and we have started tapering off.  I will be anxious to see if the fever returns after he is off of the steroids, as it can sometimes mask it.

The 30 day bone marrow biopsy results showed no cancer and the genetic mutation wasn't present.  We spent all day waiting for results and I spent much of the day sick to my stomach.  Again, we know this is no guarantee of the future.  None of us have that.  However, we at least have made it over the first of many hurdles. 

We are waiting to see the engraftment percentage, but I'm less fearful of its outcome.  However, prayers are still wanted and welcome.

Now...get out there and live!  (And if you happen to see me, returning to the fetal position, remind me to do the same.)