Shortly after Thanksgiving, my 101-year-old grandmother choked on a piece of food. She came through surgery okay, but after a week or so there was fluid collecting around her lungs and her heart wasn’t functioning properly. Like most do when one happens to be 101, her doctors recommended hospice. I haven’t seen her since her 100th birthday party, which pretty much consisted of her sitting in her wheelchair while the rest of us ran around having a blast. So last week I decided to hop on a plane and head to Arizona for a 24-hour whirlwind visit with grandma.
It was a terrifying decision. I had to weigh the potential sabotage of my newly-reclaimed health against not seeing my grandmother one last time. Which one would be easier to live with? After hemming and hawing and considering all the potential outcomes, I decided to go. I also decided I was going for me. Not to meet expectations or because of guilt or out of a sense of obligation, but because I wanted to see my grandmother when she was hopefully still coherent enough to have a conversation with me. I convinced myself if I stayed really mellow and positive the whole time, and expected to get through it without a major backslide, it just might be possible.
By the time I got there grandma had a miraculous turnaround, which isn’t anything she hasn’t done before. Talk of hospice had gone by the wayside as she was efficiently discharged into a skilled nursing facility as a transitional step before going home. I also remembered, in pretty short order, my family is anything but mellow. Nevertheless, it was a good visit and I’m glad I went.
Unfortunately once I returned home, I only had one day to self-care before my husband’s darn company holiday party. The one I was supposed to lose ten pounds in twelve days for, but because my week was spent preparing for, executing, and recovering from this trip instead of going to the gym and obsessing over how much I wasn’t eating, it didn’t even come close to happening. Whatever.
So yesterday it all caught up with me. As I was sitting here watching football, all I could focus on was the feeling of my symptoms coming to life. Yet I couldn’t tell if it was a flare of the flu that was on my horizon. I prayed for a flare. Paralyzed with fear, all I could think about was how many germs I was exposed to while sitting in the hospital for two days, not to mention flying on an airplane. I remembered how I was doing really well in 2015 until I got the flu, and here I am three years later just starting to pick up the pieces. It’s one of those things where time is the only way to tell. This morning I woke up feeling achy and sluggish but clearly without the flu. Hallelujah! It’s a flare!
It’s tough, this living sick thing. As much as I’m determined to put my health first, it’s an afterthought to everyone else. For years it was an afterthought to me, and I didn’t do very well because of it. But last week gives me hope. I’m caring less about what people expect from me, which while making me quite unpopular (what’s new), has helped stabilize my illness exponentially. As a result, I’m less emotional and more in control of my life, which has made me want to start living it again. Enough so that I was able to hop on a plane, visit my grandma, come home with a flare, and not experience one bit of resentment. That’s progress.
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