July 11, 2014 – do you remember what you were doing that day? Would you remember what you did if Facebook didn’t force the highlights of what you liked or shared that day?
I do. I can tell you exactly what I was doing that day. It was a hot, sunny day. My extended family was descending upon my grandmother’s retirement facility to release butterflies in memory of my Grampa, who had succumbed to pancreatic cancer a year and a half earlier. After the release, I was leaving my daughter with my mom and sisters and was taking my son to an appointment at the hospital. I was then going to drive back to my mom’s house to pick up my daughter and rejoin my family for a barbecue. It was a busy schedule, but as a stay at home mom, it was a fairly typical day.
During the butterfly release, I kept feeling overheated, and needed to sit down or lean on the wall. I thought I was coming down with a cold, or was simply too worn out by the emotional day. I could barely muster up the energy to smile when my nephew, one of my favourite people in the world, told me his butterfly had kissed his cheek. I then drove my son a half an hour back to our town hospital. I could feel my heart racing and began to worry that I should not be driving. I thought it was odd that I was so anxious about the non-invasive tests that the hospital would be running on my five year old son. When we pulled into the parking lot at the hospital, I was so anxious and hot that I sincerely wished I could have slipped out of my skin and into something cooler. I opened the windows and sat in the car, with my son, hoping that the feeling of anxiety, heat and the subsequent racing heart, shallow breathing and confusion, would pass and my son and I would be able to continue with our busy day.
It didn’t pass. While waiting for my son’s exams, I messaged my mom and my husband and told them something was wrong. I told them my husband would need to pick our daughter up, and that I needed to go home. I told my mom that I thought there was something wrong with my thyroid, as I was shaking so much. At 13, I had been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroiditis, and had lived the subsequent 18 years listening carefully to what my body was telling me, and when it didn’t think it was getting enough of the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). I did not feel “hypo”, as that presented, in me, as lethargy, exhaustion, confusion, coldness and depression. This felt “hyper”. My mom understood, and arranged to have my daughter brought home. When my son and I went home, it was all I could do to make it up the jack and the beanstalk- sized staircase (I could have sworn it was a regular staircase that morning…) and crawl into my bed.
I laid there, my body shaking so badly that I could feel my bed moving. I did what I always do when I feel lousy – I called my mommy. I told her what was going on, and she agreed that it was not good. She asked me if I needed anything and I said no. She did not agree, and called my husband and suggested that he come home, and told him that I was in a bad way.
That was The Day I Got Sick. Again. This time, I was a grown woman with two little kids who needed care. This time, I was a grown woman who would need to figure this out. This time, I could not convalesce in my bedroom plastered with Jonathan Taylor Thomas posters, while my mom ran interference with the doctors and my responsibilities. Or so I thought. My parents and sisters and friends turned to me to help. My parents took the kids to stay with them most of every week, all summer. My kids had fun, though I felt guilty that they would feel they had been abandoned by their Mama. They did not feel abandoned, they were having a blast, but I still felt guilty.
The year that followed July 11, 2014 was one of the hardest of my life – I went to every specialist under the sun, had blood tests weekly, and could barely praise myself out of bed to get my kids to school. I had to explain to both of their teachers why they were consistently late for school, and to please direct their annoyance at me, and not at the kids.
It was really hard, and really awful, and I truly felt that this was the worst period in my life. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me, and therefore couldn’t tell me when or if I would ever feel better. My life was figuratively paused, while those of my friends and family carried on.
July 11, 2015 – after a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, and treatment that helped, my sister and her best friend took me to get a tattoo. It was one year to the day of the Day I Got Sick, and I wanted to commemorate my survival and health with a permanent reminder that I was stronger than I thought I was. (I wrote of the story behind my tattoo here – (My Semicolon Story))
July 11, 2017 – to mark the three year anniversary of The Day I Got Sick, I went to exercise with one of my amazing friends that texted with me through it all. As I did squats and lunges, and whatever other form of private hell we could think of, I inwardly beamed. I am not as strong, or as fit, or as thin as I was in 2014, but I am infinitely happier. As I put my body through its paces, I was gentle with myself, and relished the fact that three years ago, I would not have been capable of doing any of this. The Mean Reds are gone, (most of the time) and my body and I are working towards a delicate trust. There is something so exhilarating about regaining lost health, and being able to swing a kettle bell, regardless of how light it is, when in recent memory, I could not even swing my legs out of bed.