“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.”
Yes, it’s a story as old as time. Things were marvelous. Until they weren’t.
I haven’t written for B&P for months. I felt I had nothing to say. I have been critically ill for years, but have found doctors, diagnosis, and have been treating the illnesses and not the symptoms with great success. Slowly I began to see improvement. Cognitive functioning? Check! Energy level up? Check! Pain level decreasing and general inflammation reduction? Check and check! Nausea and stomach issues? No sir. Not here. I’ve seen the tendonitis almost disappear, hair growing back, thread veins lessening, sudden sweats or chills happening with much less frequency. Some days, I walk without a limp. I’m back in the gym and am actually able to do 20 full minutes of cardio and then some strength training. I’m sleeping better at night, and stay awake during the daytime, I don’t take Advil every day and seem to have a lock on the candida. I don’t feel like a crippled ninety-year-old woman nearly as often these days. When we changed up the Lyme treatment and stopped the antibiotic therapy, replacing it with some laboratory proven herbal supplements, I was ecstatic. Even the granuloma annulare which had been plaguing me for years and wouldn’t go away no matter what I did, were rapidly decreasing.
It’s been seven months, and I was done. Cocky even. The doctor, with raised eyebrows, told me to slow it down, Red. We’ve still got a ways to go based on what we know of the Borrelia and Babesia birth and death cycles. Pooh pooh, said I!! Apparently, the universe heard me, and smote me.
“It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.” John Wooden
Two weeks ago, suddenly and with some severity, I tumbled from grace. Swelling, pain and fatigue came crashing back down around me. Chills and sweats, the hallmarks of Babesia, were suddenly making me miserable. I’ve had to be wrapped in a heating pad to get to sleep. Oh, and sleep? Disrupted is a mild way of putting it. Waking up each morning with my hands swollen like huge balloons, barely able to use them for an hour after waking (but for some reason the granuloma are nearly gone). Achilles tendons swollen, tight and incredibly painful. Knees? Let’s not even go there. I have woken every night with my legs just aching. Wake in the morning with my hip joints on fire, pulsing with pain. Staggering around each a.m. and nearly weeping from the effort. It felt like I had zoomed back four or five months in treatment.
To say I was distraught would be an understatement. Oh, and furious. Pissed off. So, I did what anyone would do when faced with a major glitch in the matrix: I redoubled my effort! I got angry, and then got serious. If I had gotten a bit too casual with my schedule and meds, well then I would become iron clad. Was I eating gluten, with a little shrug, and convincing myself that it wasn’t a big deal? Not anymore. Out, out damned wheat! And exercise hurts? Oh yeah. It sure does. And I got on the bicycle anyway. Day after day. I moved. I drank liquid. I cut calories and added vitamins and supplements.
“I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.” John D. Rockefeller
Because I know that the race isn’t won by stopping midway through the contest. Because I appreciate something even more when I’ve had to fight for it. I’m hardwired that way. Because even though I know rationally that I’ll probably never be like I was before, that makes me try even harder to get back to where I was before. When my husband and I were in our early days, learning about one another and how each other’s minds and psyches worked, I would be faced with adversity and would get quite pissy. I’m a bit of an oversized child sometimes, I’ll admit. I furrow my brow, cross my arms and metaphorically stomp my Mary Janes, mad as hell and hissy fitting for all I’m worth. And not unexpectedly for someone with serious illness, limitations and in a foreign country. It was sometimes simply overwhelming. He would sigh, get a long suffering look on his face and ask if I wanted to quit. Sullenly, I would say “NO!” I want it to be better. And after my outburst, whether vocal or merely internal, I would get back up, dust off and keep stomping forward. Yes, stomp. It’s a good word for how I move through life. Always has been. I’m not subtle, but I can be effective. And I can be tenacious. I may stop momentarily to stomp in irritation, but I will almost always keep moving forward anyway.
“In order to get from what was to what will be, you must go through what is.” Anonymous
I’ve come to notice that among the population, there are people who, when faced with difficulty, resign themselves to it. Give in. Cease to fight. When I was in the hospital, I noticed keenly that some people just lay there and moaned, and some got up and got on with the business of living. And I have to wonder, what makes two people with equal impositions in the form of illness, pain and disability behave so differently from one another? Is it written in the DNA? Is it nurture; are we the product of our raising? Then how do you explain someone who rises above an environment and becomes successful? How is it one person decides emphatically to keep going and triumph in the face of it all, while another becomes the opposite? How can one person become even more resolute to reach the finish line after experiencing failure, while another locks their hopes and dreams away and just stops trying? After each surgery, I did something major. Hiked the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Took my first scuba dive in Thailand. After my TKR and Achilles surgery, I got on my bicycle and did errands on the insane Chinese roadways. Trust me, that’s major, with or without surgery!
I don’t think it’s any mystery why people who meditate, pray, or simply refuse to accept illness heal better, and recover more fully than those who attend the church of “woe is me.” And let me be clear… there’s a major difference between allowing yourself to have moments of tears, sadness or anger, and allowing yourself to live there permanently. No one gets through adversity without emotion. Expressing those emotions in a way that diffuses them is healthy. Setting up camp in them and swimming around in them daily? Not so much. Every day can’t be a gangbuster day. Sometimes you have to simply exist and be still and rest, and that’s logical. But for the most part, if you have limitations, push them. If you have fears, educate yourself fully, and then confront them. Challenge yourself. Poke at your situation with a goad of non-acceptance. Never give in, never give up and always strive for things that someone who doesn’t know you told you were unachievable. They don’t know you, do they?
One of my surgeons, a somewhat arrogant, cheeky British bloke, was so cavalier about sucking it up and getting better that I’m sure a more sensitive person might have been insulted by him. We did an experimental procedure on me that caused an incredible amount of pain and made recovery much more difficult. And yet, I recovered in record time. Upon reflection, the surgeon admitted that perhaps doing multiple procedures like that wasn’t the best idea. Maybe not for someone else, but I never batted an eye, even if I found myself weeping with pain on the physio table. Oh, and I did. I never told her to stop, or really to even ease up. I told her how evil she was, and how much I hated it all, and then told her to keep going, and do her job! She and I are friends to this day. One trip home, after a long international flight, I was so crippled up that I was actually pulling myself along the gangplank handrail out into the airline terminal. There were skycaps manning wheelchairs who were lined up and offering assistance to handicapped people. All seven of them in unison tried hard to talk me into a ride, but I knew that walking was the only way I was going to stretch out and quell some of the joint pain. I was miserable and I really didn’t want to be moving at all! I was panting from pain, but knew I had to go through about ten minutes of agony, to get to a better place for my body. As I passed the fifth guy, he leaned toward his coworker and said “that one is tough!” That served to bolster my brain and pushed my confidence even higher. It was one of the coolest things anyone has ever said about me, and I call it up when I need it, to this day. Now, some folks needed those chairs, and for them I’m thrilled they were available. If you need them, you need them. I was able to attend a Linkin Park concert because of a wheelchair, so I get it. But I knew that taking that chair, for me, was giving up. So I said no and I kept on stomping.
Some of us seem to get handed seriously unfair challenges. But really, doesn’t everyone get them? Just because you can’t see them in some people, doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with something major. So while we can’t always see what burdens the people around us are bearing, we can see how they choose to live their lives, and how they bear those burdens. That, to me, is the measure of success. When you run smack into the wall of defeat, smack that wall back, and then break through it. It’s just a wall. But you? You’re a wall buster. And you are amazing.
“History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.”
— B.C. Forbes