The Ride of a Lifetime

If I’ve learned one thing from life it’s that it is full of ups and downs. If there is one other thing I’ve learned, it’s that everybody wants the ups without the downs. That’s not how life works though, is it?

When I was around twelve, my mom was diagnosed with Lupus. Still to this day, I remember sitting in the waiting room, waiting for the results of her tests. I knew my mothers life would forever be changed if this was the diagnosis she received. I knew Lupus was not “fixable”. And as I sat in the waiting room, I prayed repeatedly, and with everything in me, that she would find out she did not have Lupus. . . God doesn’t always give us what we want though.

When my mother was diagnosed with Lupus, I was devastated. We were all devastated. We wanted my mom to be healthy. But, my mother being the stubborn woman that she was, and still is, never once complained about the cards she was dealt, and throughout my childhood, I often forgot she even had it. Looking back I know she was often in pain, yet she forced herself to get out of bed to care for my sister and I. A sacrifice I know she would do again and again without a second thought.

A couple of years ago my mom ended up in the hospital. For several weeks the doctors had no answers. No idea why her head hurt so bad. Why it felt like a vice was squeezing against her head. And no clue why the migraine medicine, the morphine drip, and cocktail of other drugs didn’t help her at all. Every doctor that came in had a new diagnosis. She had liver failure according to one doctor. She had heart failure according to another. I of course, didn’t know what was wrong, but I did know that her body was yellow, she could barely breathe, and the more I saw her, the more I worried sick about her. I watched her go to the bathroom, no further than two feet away, then come back to her bed and struggle with everything in her to catch her breathe. In that moment, I was sure I only had days left with her. But, by the grace of God, she got better. They found that she needed her gallbladder removed. Her lupus made it harder for her body to handle everything, as well as to recover. The headaches, her only symptom, was referred pain, and went away with the surgery and a low fat diet. The fluid on her heart was due to an IV drip that a nurse had left on her too long. Her heart was unable to pump out the fluid at the rate it was going in. They removed the IV and her heart had no lasting effects from it.

Very similarly, five years ago, I found myself sitting in a waiting room, praying over and over for my dad to come out of brain surgery, alive and without cancer. A week prior to this, my mother had found him on the floor, passed out. She called 911 and when he awoke it was obvious something was wrong. His speech was a mess, and he was not making any sense. She drove him to the hospital where they did a scan. They found a mass in his brain, and at the time they called it a tumor. He was taken to Sacred Heart, where they did surgery to remove it. The outcome was better than we could’ve hoped. It was not a tumor. And it was not cancerous. It was a mass of blood vessels that had burst. . . A congenital defect. They removed the mass, and the location of the bleed affected only his speech. With therapy he has made almost a full recovery.

These things among many other tragedies and misfortunes in my life are not things I would ever have hoped to have dealt with. They are things I wish my family did not have to deal with. But I have to ask myself. . . Would I be the person I am today without them? Would my family be the same family I know and cherish today? Would any of us truly know what joy is without feeling pain?

The answer I found was a resounding “no”.

Seeing my mother fight her Lupus every day taught me to never give up. Seeing my dad go through brain surgery taught me what courage really is. Coming so close to losing both of them taught me to cherish every second I am given with them. And with every struggle, every, misfortune, and every close call I have experienced, I am continuously amazed at the love that pours out of such horrible experiences. . . Love that comes from my community, my friends, family, loved ones, and even people I barely know.

So, be thankful for all of it. Without the lows, there would be no highs. Without the bad, we would never appreciate the good.