Many people understand that receiving a diagnosis of a chronic, painful, incurable illness, is much like dying. Before you had different needs, goals, and limits that must now pass away before the new version of your identity can rise, and take shape.
However, disease progression can hit at any time, stealing your sense of self, and starting the cycle of grief anew. Once I was able to just keep pushing myself. I would be sore the next day, or two, but that was it. Now, the consequences are much more extreme, and overdoing it could cost me a few days in bed.
While writing helps me make sense of, and purge negative emotions, it was never something I aspired to. I spent 6 years up to my eyeballs in environmental, wildlife, botany, and sustainability research, as I worked on my Bachelor in Environmental Science, with a concentration in fish, and wildlife. I planned on graduating summa cum laude before pursuing my Master of Science, and Doctorate in Sustainability.
I wanted to help the world make some needed changes to reverse environmental damage, and move towards a sustainable future. I had spent much personal time in research of sustainable design practices I wanted to share with the places that need them most. I accept that this dream is not in the cards for me now. It took time, but I finally felt good about letting go of what is no longer right for me.
Being on long-term chemotherapy, and with the full knowledge that I will have to continue this, and more aggressive types of treatment for life, is reality. The me on the Dean’s List with a 3.98 GPA isn’t here anymore, and isn’t coming back. The me who was accepted to RIT (MIT’s little sis) does not exist.
I tried to be her. Tried my best. My new brain just cannot process that much new information anymore, or keep pace in a classroom setting, even with extensions. I was forced out 3 classes shy of my degree, but I had tried to take each of these classes three times each. I did my best, but could not get through the first weeks of classes without going into a flare. It was time to give it up, at least for a while.
I try to use my time to heal now. It may be soaking my sore joints in a bath, taking time to nap, staying hydrated, doing light physical therapy, or going to therapy. I’m not just waiting for the days to go by, I’m trying to look at this as an opportunity to slow down, and do all the things I never had time for before.
I have lost passions, hobbies, goals, and dreams, but I am still me. I am still alive, and I can fall in love with a new pursuit, try new hobbies, and dream new dreams. I survived all the little deaths, and there is still time. But if told me this a year ago, I’d only be able to list what I was losing. Now I’m trying new things, pushing the edge of my boundaries, and have an appreciation for life that might not have otherwise ever have developed.
Going through the stages of grief because of illness? Made it through the dark, and have a positive suggestion? Leave it in the comments!