“You should have seen it! I’m going to name it Colossus!” And with that declaration, Q and I celebrated with a fist-pump in the count of what would be the first of six bowel movements that day. This is a typical celebration shortly after I’ve rolled my butt out of bed mid-morning and drank a smoothie. After such exertion from all my hard work, I relax on the couch sans makeup, hair in a bun and still in my pj’s. It’s a far cry from where my life used to be. Illness brings many surprises.
I remember at the onslaught of being told I was terminal I felt devalued. Who would ever expect to feel inconsequential to strangers and loved ones alike all because you’re incurable? But I did. Within days of receiving the news, I questioned internally whether Q might leave. Not because he’s unreliable or an asshole but because fear told me that being “terminal” was undesirable. I wondered if he were secretly looking for his next wife in every female we met. It was shortly after this crazy thought about Q that I worried that should I find myself in the hospital with a medical emergency would the doctors in the ER even bother to try to save my life? It sounds ridiculous but in my mind, I thought why attempt to save something that is already dying?
When I was eventually forced to leave my job I felt even more devalued. Financially I had failed to continue to be a partner in my marriage and was now a dependent (or burden as I like to say). And where my work days were spent attending executive board meetings, managing million dollar projects and navigating a highly skilled IT team, I now found myself going from one disturbing treatment to the next, in between Sudoku and tv surfing. My career made me feel relevant and necessary. Not only in what it provided financially to my family but while working I was dynamic and totally in control. In my career, I was a confident, outspoken extrovert who’s vocabulary surpassed most to the extent I constantly had to explain to people what I meant by what I said. But after years of professional couch sitting, I don’t even know how to use those words anymore. They’re contained within my mind but I struggle to release them intelligently, intermixed with other words to form a proper sentence. I mean I’m not grunting and snorting as communication yet but my mind certainly isn’t as vivid as it once was.
In my previous life, I was always fashionably dressed and accessorized. My nails were always manicured, my hair styled to perfection. It was important how I looked. Although I still get my hair styled by my stylist (Tabs is the best 😉) for the most part it’s kept tied in a knot on the top of my head. Sweatpants and t-shirts are my new haute couture because they’re stretchy and comfortable. My nails are no longer manicured and I rarely if ever, wear makeup. Who has time for lipstick and emery boards when your body demands naps and enemas?
As a mother I was always chauffeuring to skating and guitar lessons, soccer practice the list went on. When my children had problems at school or with a peer, I was the one who marched to their defence and fought on their behalf. That person of yesterday is not the person of today. The person I am now, spends their hours quietly, an introvert avoiding the world, contemplating whether they really can fit 2 scoops of raisins in that one box of cereal. I don’t take anyone anywhere anymore. Not even myself. I can’t be trusted – because I have no idea half the time what day it is, let alone what month or year. I’m oblivious to the clock of the working world.
Eventually, these negative thoughts would wane but time played no role in erasing the feelings of unworthiness. Instead, it would be the actions of others that would allow me to reclaim my merit. It started when I went into anaphylactic shock during an MRI. When the dye was released into my veins it took only moments before a thousand needles pierced my throat and I began to choke. After a shot of adrenaline and some pain meds, I spent the remainder of the day in the ER. It was then I began to suspect that maybe, just maybe doctors might try to save my life in an emergency. I mean I know they just had, but if they hadn’t they would have essentially killed me and of course, no one wants that on their conscious. With hesitation, I felt somewhat valued.
With so many treatments, medicines and appointments my appearance took a back seat. And although my eyebrows had filled in like fuzzy caterpillars across my forehead and my clothing was reminiscent of a college basketball player Q was still here. Maybe, just maybe he still found me desirable. With hesitation, I felt somewhat valued.
I would speak with my Mom daily and the first thing out of her mouth was to inquire about how I felt. She was always concerned and cared whether it was a good day or a bad day. My children kept asking for help, even if it were only for spinach dip recipes and my advice on whether that blouse really did look good with those boots. I was possibly still an integral part of all of their lives and with hesitation, I felt somewhat valued.
Whether I walked out of the house for 5 hours or 5 minutes, upon my return I was always greeted by my puppies, Meka and Winston like I’d been gone a century. Kisses and jumps followed by more kisses. And with hesitation, I felt somewhat valued.
But it took the comment of a complete stranger to restore my virtue without doubt or hesitation. I had been scheduled for an ultrasound and after reading my diagnosis on the chart the only words out of the tech’s mouth were, “I”m sorry this is happening to you.” Those words were so profound to me. After a slight pause of uncertainty, I thanked her. Quietly I sat through the procedure contemplating, “Why would she be sorry? Why should she care?”, considering I was a complete stranger. But after much thought and consideration, I realized my value wasn’t in the amount of money I could bring home, nor the power and autonomy I had enjoyed in my career. My worthiness wasn’t dictated by how much I shuttled my children from here to there or how many battles I fought on their behalf. My significance in this world also wasn’t contained in my appearance regardless of how others may have perceived how good or bad I looked. My value was in me as a person. My life was valuable simply because I existed. And as a human being watching another human suffer, the ultrasound tech had shown me my worth through her words of compassion of my situation.
Although my motherly duties now consist of administering kibble, my career is scanning Netflix for something to watch, my days are spent counting poops and it’s obvious I haven’t been keeping up with the Kardashians or their beauty tips, I’m ok with it. Because I’m a mother, wife, daughter, sister and a member of this species and there is nothing more valuable.
~ True North Nomad
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