When I Wasn’t Well Enough to Attend My 20-Year High School Reunion


Tonight is my 20-year high school reunion. That sentence alone is enough to give pause to anyone who has ever uttered it.

I’m not able to attend because I am chronically ill, and at this point, committing to anything more than a doctor’s appointment or a trip to the store usually ends up being a lose-lose for me. I say yes then have to cancel — a task I do not relish in the slightest.

As is the case with chronic illness, milestones can be difficult. Not just because it was — gasp! — 20 years since I’d left the nest, but because of circumstances beyond my control, I’d landed right back in it.

Anniversaries often cause us to examine our lives and what we have done with them. If I take my current situation as a barometer for what I have done in the past two decades, the result is, at first glance, disappointing. I have recently been let go from my job of just under a decade because, in the past few years, my health had deteriorated so badly that I could no longer travel or even make it into work every day. I have moved back to my hometown after living in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. And through it all, I continue dealing with multiple ripples of bad heath stemming from my three rounds with Cushing’s disease.

My new reality involves multiple doctors, more new medications and treatments than days of the year and often daily fights to get out of bed. This is a far cry from working on the red carpet, dealing with mounds of correspondence at the White House and fighting for legislation to help create jobs and keep workers safe. And when I really stop to think about it, even when I had a flourishing career and ample social life, illness always lurked around the corner. When all is said and done, I have been sick since I was 20 years old.

That’s a long time to not get better.

As the reunion approached, I knew I wasn’t going to be well enough to attend. And I also knew that while my friends and former classmates were getting married, having children and buying houses, I was undergoing three separate neurosurgeries over a span of 15 years. There are some milestones I am probably never going to achieve.

So, on the day of my 20-year reunion, while I sit on my childhood bed and riffle through old pictures of what life was like circa 1996, I choose instead to focus on the personal milestones I have achieved. Today it was a small one, after a week and a half of battling a nasty cold on top of my various other ailments, I was well enough to go for a short walk and play outside with my puppy.

This may not be the future I envisioned when I tuned my tassel from right to left 20 years ago, but I know I have done some amazing things in my life. And while I no longer have the bandwidth to do the things I did, I take solace in the smaller things. A hammock in the backyard. A loving family and some kick-ass friends. And a whole community of chronically ill spoonies who “get me” and can help find humor at the absurdity of the situations that occur when your good health fades away.

So I didn’t make it to my 20-year reunion. Instead, I created a virtual reunion page for all of the other classmates who could not attend. We joked and shared photos online and then all enjoyed the pictures from the reunion. And I did it all from the comfort of my hammock.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


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