"Don't be discouraged, Gail. This is just a brief detour in your life."
"This kanswer is just a bump in the road, and you'll get back to your regular life soon."
"Don't worry. Everything will get back to normal in just a few months."
I know they mean well. They want me to not lose hope. They want me to press forward to get through this horrific time in my life and get back to my happy, healthy, strong self. I am grateful for their kind words and for their hope for me to fully recover and return to the life I had before all this started.
But here's one thing I know for sure: there is no going back.
There is no way to go back to who I used to be and how I used to live.
I won't ever be able to go to the doctor and say:
"Nope, I've never had surgery."
"Nope, I've never been hospitalized."
"Nope, I've never been diagnosed with a major illness."
And for five years following surgery and radiation, I won't be able to say,
"Nope, I'm not on any medication."
I will never have dreadlocs again.
I will never have breasts again.
I will never be able to look into the mirror and see the body I had three months ago.
But nor will I ever take the taste of food for granted again.
I will never take sleeping through the night for granted again.
I will never take the hair in my nostrils for granted again.
I will never take the ability to walk for more than 20 minutes for granted.
I will never take easy and smooth digestion for granted.
I will never take full sensation in my hand, fingers, and feet for granted again.
I will never look at a woman with a wrap or hat the same way again.
I will recognize that "bald around the edges" look.
I will try to make eye contact and say something kind.
I will endeavor to look at everyone around me with more kindness and tenderness,
because everyone is fighting a fierce battle.
Most battles are invisible - emotional, mental, spiritual and internally physical -
but fierce, unending battles rage all around us and within us.
No one is immune. No one is exempt.
Not even me.
Not only the lessons I'm learning about having a body that is out of balance,
the pain I feel as my bones produce white blood cells,
the lack of energy to be the mother and wife I have been until now,
the hunger that results when eating is painful to my mouth,
the phsyical isolation to avoid getting sick,
the loneliness, the frequent bouts of despair,
the tears I shed on a daily basis,
the grilled chesse and tortilla soup,
the lasagna and salad,
the encouragement to be real, honest, and radically kind to myself,
the support, the prayers, the cards that remind me that I'm being thought of daily,
the moments of victory,
the laughter through the tears,
the silent accompaniment of the God I love,
the very present help in this time of trouble,
none of this is a detour.
All of this is my life's journey.
(I love the fact that the list of the good stuff is still a lot longer than the list of the bad stuff!)
No turning back,
no turning back.