Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ice Age

It was around this time of year in 1999 when the first whisperings of disease descended upon my life. I had only been in Washington, D.C. for about a year since moving there after college graduation. My boyfriend at the time and I had just settled into a precious Cape Cod rental house in Alexandria, VA. Between my man, my home, my job and my dog, I felt like a woman of the world, ready to make her mark.

When the pain came, it was like a full eclipse of the sun. My future was paralyzed. Hell, my present was paralyzed.  And that was before things got really bad; before pain, pain doctors and pain pills wrapped around me like vine on a trellis. Necessary evils in the face of a merciless disease.  It was a situational straight jacket.

Who knew life could change so quickly, absolutely, and inescapably? The hopeful 23-year old woman who was looking forward to a career and family was put on ice. I was very sick, and the life I had always dreamt of was the casualty. I came home to Columbus where family could care for me, and here I have remained. I fell into a long, dark night.

Every year when the air turns crisp and the leaves turn shades of crimson and gold, I can hear her voice calling on the wind. There hasn't been an ongoing career, a husband or a home of my own. And the only child I had died inside me. Never in a million years did that hopeful 23 year old young woman think that her battle was just beginning, nor think that it would endure 15 years and counting. Her voice sounds almost like a child longing to be fed. And I so wish I could feed her, but the milk she craves has long dried out. 

This fall is unfolding differently. There is a new voice I hear. It comes from within. The song is full of hope; hope for health and love. The pride and faith I've found as I've battled these wounds merge to form a sweet, yet strong melody. It rides on the wind and sings in the chimes that surround my home. I would be lying to say there aren't days I didn't wish I could start over with my youth and health intact, but I believe that makes me human.

When I think I want her back, I tell myself to look at my soul in a mirror. I am proud of what l I see. I am strong to have survived what I have. Getting sick sure as hell wasn't my choice, no matter how many doctors tried to tell me it was in my head before they figured it out. But I DID choose to survive it. I chose to remain hopeful, and that's no small feat. That young Jessica is gone, but a stronger, prouder, braver Jessica is in her place.

The disease and pain have put me through an ice age. Every part of the illness has carved into me like glaciers eroding rock to form what are now mountain ranges. True, much of the old me has been weathered away. But how can I deny the blessings I've been gifted. I've got mountain ranges ahead of me. Beautiful, glorious, living mountain ranges with infinite possibilities. I'm more than happy with that.