“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” ~ Walter Anderson
I travelled to see a new Lyme doctor yesterday. In Australia they are getting harder and harder to come by. This one lives hours from my home, so we allocated an entire day and my husband Ben drove me. I am still not up to driving most days, and certainly not a trip of this distance.
After 2 years of intense antibiotic therapy which saved my life, I was unable to find anyone to continue my treatment, and had to stop midway through a program of therapy. Why? My first doctor was shut down, and my second stepped away from practice. My third doctor wouldn’t treat me because of the risks to their career, although they were happy to supervise me on the protocols of a previous doctor until my medications ran out. so, like at many other times in my life I was back to doing my own doctoring.My fourth doctor, the one who initially diagnosed me, still refuses to treat me because it’s ‘too controversial’ – although they will put me on a ‘wellness program’.
Since then I’ve supported myself with herbs, diet, essential oils, acupuncture and detoxing. I have a good GP who is supportive but doesn’t know anything about Lyme. I’d been doing pretty well, apart from a few hospitalisations. But now my chest pain is coming back, and some other worrying symptoms. Symptoms that recently eased when I went on a course of antibiotics for something entirely unrelated. So I know I need to be back under the care of a lyme literate doctor.
To be honest, yesterday was a difficult day. As we drove I knew that my friend Liz was above me in the sky somewhere, winging her way to Hawaii with her family. After a recent cancer prognosis Liz knows she has a very short time left on this earth. I was thinking of her, and the conflicting emotions she would be feeling as she made the journey for what might be her last holiday with her loved ones.
When I wasn’t thinking about Liz I was reviewing my thick folder of health notes. These aren’t all my notes and results. Just the ones from the last few years. The entirety of my notes fills a filing cabinet, and that isn’t even all of them. In fact, in peaks of chagrin or frustration I have thrown many away.
As I looked through my medical files, I became increasingly distressed. I’ve been seriously ill since my late teens. This illness has shaped my entire adult life. Restricted my life. Impaired my life. Almost ended my life on more than one occasion.
I looked at all of the notes from doctors and specialists and natural therapists who didn’t believe me, or put the blame on me when I didn’t respond to treatment. I looked at all of my various diagnoses and treatment plans stretching back to my late teens, when I first became very ill. I am now nearing fifty and was only given a Lyme diagnosis in early 2013. I could fill a notebook with the diagnoses I’ve had before that.
I thought about all of the doctors whose practices have been shut down over the years for electing to help people like me who are falling through the cracks of the medical system.
I thought of the people I know who have suicided because of Lyme when they couldn’t take the pain anymore, couldn’t see a way out, were getting worse despite their best efforts, couldn’t find any support, or whose loved ones grew weary of the burden of their care. Of all of the sufferers who have never been believed or taken seriously, although they are desperately ill.
I thought of all of the lyme sufferers I know who have died from this disease, or the complications that have arisen from this disease.
I thought of how much money and time I have thrown at this, for such limited results.
And I got angry.
So here I was. Angry and nervous.
Nervous because what if this new doctor turned me away? What if they didn’t believe me?
I forgot to say fearful. I was fearful too. Because I am so much better than I have been and this chest pain is awful and I am so frightened of sliding back to where I was. Or worse.
By the time we arrived at our destination I was a churning mess, although I was trying to hold onto optimism.
The appointment itself was frustrating. The doctor wants more information. They are being very careful. Who wouldn’t, in a climate of such persecution of medicos? While they review all my recent results from the past few years, and discuss my case, I will wait. Hopefully this doctor will then take me on and I will finally have a supervised course of action.
As we drove home in a car filled with silence, I came to a profound understanding.
Most of my life I have faced hardship, especially in regard to my health. Despite that I have remained optimistic. I have made plans. I have held to a vision of a positive future. I have lived despite my disease.
This year I have so many lovely things organised. I am blessed with my husband and the love of my two crazy hounds. My little farm fills my soul with peace. I am well enough to work. I am finally well enough to travel. (Yes, I have chest pain and yes that freaks me out, but I have travelled and lived with this before and been fine, and if I croak it, it won’t matter anyway!)
So I decided yesterday that what matters most is my attitude. I just can’t afford to get bogged down in the injustice and awfulness of it all. I can’t get bogged down in my own personal history. I can’t even get bogged down in my current situation. I have to stop opening that damned folder! I need to rise above this, to turn my face towards the sun and stop looking behind me.
When I think of my plans and I sit in gratitude for my life, I can still be happy. I can still feel good inside.
That dark bird of death always sits on my shoulder. Just as she follows each one of us. But I am comfortable with her now, and she helps me to remember what is important and good in my life. Her presence is a blessing because I am reminded to live mindfully, to chose what matters and to live that. No more for me the life of an automaton. I cannot take life for granted and I won’t.
None of it matters, really. We will all die. We don’t know when. But while we are alive, we can live. And what we choose to think and focus on colours every single day.
I cannot always choose my outcomes or my circumstances, but I can choose my thinking. And that is a powerful place to be.