Writing this book has brought back so many memories and made me think so deeply about misfortune and challenge people experience. I have always been ultrasensitive to people who have commented or complemented me on being strong through what I have gone through. And there have been people who have commented on their challenges with health. Generally, these comments are followed by the caveat that: “of course this is nothing compared to what you have gone through”. The number and complexity of the challenges we face in life is never a contest. My heart aches for people who have lost a parent at a young age, a spouse, or even more incredibly a child. It aches for people who have lost comrades, friends and family in war. Or who have witnessed or been a victim of violence.
My situation is, for me, a merely quirk of nature. An unfortunate circumstance, almost like being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet, similar to other losses they have the potential to shatter or sense of the way life should be and challenge our belief in ourselves. My losses are not of the unplanned or early death of a loved one, they are losses of valued parts of myself. That is why I talk so much about the need to hold on to the self that I have. When I refer to the self that I have, I am referring to what is in my mind, what is in my soul, and everything I care about. I have lost things that I care about in terms of physical and cognitive function, things like balance, which prevents me from ice skating, skipping, running, dancing, or doing any of those athletic things, and memory, impacting recall of words, names and making commitments to things I forget to follow through with.
What I have not lost is the people who are near and dear to me. I have my regrets, not because I did anything wrong, but for not being there for family and friends when they needed me. Being in a coma in the hospital when my cousin Stacie stepped in to give the eulogy at my father’s funeral. Being in the hospital after my second transplant when my sisters were faced with moving my mother to an assisted living facility. Needing to leave my students in the middle of a semester, attending to my Mother at one sister’s wedding while asking Kar, with severe spinal spasms l he had to prepare a dinner for 40 at the last minute when my other sister’s partner bailed. My brother John thankfully was the one who was there for him.
There is more, much more, However the points I want to make is:
1) When we are going through pain or illness we become self-absorbed;
2) There is no comparison between one person’s challenges, and another; and
3) When we are sick and others are left to pick up the pieces, it is no fault of our own.