It’s been 19 months since our son had his stem cell transplant for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and yesterday he texted me:
Rediscovering My Ground
How am I alive? Was just reflecting on everything we have been through. It’s crazy.”
I occasionally look at the photos and videos from that timeframe and frankly, I don’t know the answer to his question. Some will want to invoke God’s will; some will recognize Will’s innate drive to survive; some will say our family and friends willed him to live. It really doesn’t matter. The fact is, he is alive.
It’s fascinating to me that while our family has rejoiced in Will’s remission and is very hopeful he will have a positive long-term outcome, there have been significant aftershocks we were not prepared for. Families who are dealing with a serious illness or trauma and are in the thick of it are very much in the moment. You don’t have a choice. You are only focused on that day, that moment, and survival. Your days are laid out before you with doctors, timed medications and treatments, constant monitoring, regular trips to the ER for fevers of unknown origins. Like newly expecting parents you keep a bag packed at all times knowing you’ll likely be staying in the hospital. This becomes your normal. It’s after the crisis that things get more complicated.
After the crisis, your body and mind have been vigilant for so long that you have trouble not being constantly on guard. You struggle to find your place in work, among friends, and at home.
For me, I found myself irritable as if all my senses were on fire from over stimulation from the environment. I could not tune anything out. I still struggle to sleep well and often feel like my tank is only half full. Taking care of others and of myself has been difficult and often caused me to feel depleted and resentful. It’s as if my body and brain became trapped in the constant stress of the medical crisis.
The good news, is that while I’m not 100% recovered, much like Will is not yet 100% recovered, I am rediscovering my ground. Friendships have become easy, welcomed and appreciated in new and deeper ways as my friends have loved me through this challenging time. My family has made new, positive, memories together through travel and spending time together. Life is developing its own natural rhythm again and while there are still bumps in the road, I feel less volatile.
You may wonder why I would share something like this near the holidays. I’m reaching out to those of you who are in the middle of it right now. I want you to know you are not crazy. There is hope, even in really dark circumstances—maybe you’ve lost a loved one after caring for them and will be celebrating this holiday with an empty seat at the table; or you’ll be “hosting” the holiday in a hospital with pandemic restrictions; or maybe you’ve had a major life change such as a divorce or empty nesting. I want you to remind yourself, this feeling is temporary and you will be okay, no matter what.
While I would love to speed up the clock on emotional healing for all of us, it has its own timetable. What I am secure in knowing is, for today, we are alive and we will rediscover our ground.