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How I Am Trying to Achieve Remission by Finding My 'Great Valley' Again

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Remission. Nine simple letters that together mean everything to someone going through Lyme disease, cancer, chronic pain, chronic illness, depression and anxiety. This piece is one I’ve known I needed to write for a while. But in all honesty, I’m just now wrapping my head and heart around no longer being in remission that it’s a bittersweet reality for me.

My remission lasted about a year and a half. Leading up to it, I just knew in my bones that I was going to die. I wasn’t upset, bitter or even sad. It was just a fact. As if it was the color of my eyes, there was no disputing this at all. Family and friends that were around during this time, they all stayed a little longer and told me they loved me many extra times.

I prepared myself, funeral plans and even letters for my family to open after I was gone. That is how serious my health situation had become, at 30 I was planning my last wishes.

And then something happened. Once my doctors told me to “start working on my bucket list.” My first decision was that I didn’t want to spend another second wasted in a doctor office or specialists clinic.

So I worked hard, I mean really hard on improving my lifestyle, eating habits, exercise, and even the way I treated myself and others. I’m not one to give up easily. And when the doctors told me they didn’t think I’d make it. Well, I heard a completely different message.

This was a challenge. I was going to prove them wrong!. I was not a lost cause or anything even close to that. But my body was shutting down. Slowly I started taking myself off pharmaceuticals that had been flooding my body since puberty.

Yes, I’ve spent more time sick in my life as opposed to healthy.

But don’t think I haven’t lived an amazing and full life just because I have serious health problems. I have experienced things that you would never believe.

There’s that country song “Live Like You Were Dying”, while it’s a good song, I have to disagree. The moments you never stop to think about: kids laughing in the house, snuggle on the couch, and even deep conversations with friends and family that would have happened if I wasn’t forced to face my own mortality.

I soaked in every drop of life, and I chugged laughter and joy. I drenched myself in kindness and compassion for my fellow warriors, sisters, brothers in the fight.

I was the friend everyone could come to without fear of judgment. My house was where we all hung out. I’d make dinners and have friends over, go to concerts, studied my butt off in nursing school. I’d surprise my nephews by picking them up early and going to chase them around the park.

Slowly, and then all at once, I got better. I was in remission and claimed it!

However, I am stubborn and after a while, I started slacking on my diet, worked out to train for a strong woman competition, and never got enough sleep. Worked way too much in the elements, and ended up having a heat stroke.

Still, in my mind, I was still in remission. Even after strep twice, horrible shingles outbreak, and even started throwing up every single day…my mind wouldn’t even entertain the idea of my body declining again.

I had plans. Finish nursing school, become a traveling nurse and eventually work at St. Jude as a pediatric oncology nurse. Everything was falling into place finally, but, at the same time, unbeknownst to me, my body was still under attack.

I had things to do and life passed me by for so long that I jumped at any opportunities when I felt the least bit better.

I’ve had people ask how remission feels. If you can think of you on your best day possible, it won’t even come close to how amazing it feels!

“I’ve seen the Great Valley, Duckie. And and it’s more amazing than we ever even imagined!”

That statement came from a conversation with a dear friend of mine. When she just couldn’t see the light. I remind her all the time now. And myself.

She will be at the end of her rope, barely hanging on and I’ll get the text, “Tell me again how remission feels.”

Makes me smile every time. I can feel that child-like faith that every fellow warrior I’ve met has deep inside. Almost like a kid wanting to hear their favorite bedtime story. Every single time, I will explain it more vividly and enthusiastically because I can feel she needs that and really I need the reminder too.

Because, even though it was less than a year ago, that I was all on my own and living and loving my life, it seems as if all of that was a dream. Or a distant memory I just can’t seem to grasp again just yet.

I’ve also had several questions asking,

“What did you do wrong?”

I didn’t do anything wrong. Not in that sense. But I did treat my body as if it was cured and not in a constant healing state.

So, in a way I guess I did do something wrong. The guilt and terror that engulfs you after finding out your disease is no longer in remission. The levels of panic, anxiety, depression, and heartbreak are unlike any you’ve ever experienced.

I know something is wrong, but it’s so neurological at this point that it’s hard to even for me to tell where the diseases end and where I begin.

It’s taken me several months to understand my body has these limitations again. And the neurological symptoms are like nothing I’ve ever experienced nor would I ever wish on anyone.

I’ll find remission again. I’ll find myself. She will be stronger than before and so much wiser. I made it to the Great Valley once, and I know the way now. I can find the Great Valley. Come on Ducky, Littlefoot, Cera and even Petrie, let us go on this healing journey together!

Image from The Land Before Time’s Facebook page

Originally published: November 9, 2018
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