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Why I Celebrated the Anniversary of the Worst Day of My Health Journey

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When I decided to celebrate my worst day, I had romantic dreams of baking a chocolate cake, coating it with vanilla icing and beautifully decorating it with some unabashed inspirational quote.

Here’s what happened.

It’s OK to laugh. Seriously. I know, it’s a high-fructose, high-caloric train wreck.

Just in case you can’t read it, beneath the scattered sprinkles, squiggled in red gel is the iconic line from Bruce Springsteen’s song “Badlands”  –  “Ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”

Here’s why.

This past September 4th was a big day for me. An anniversary of sorts. So I baked and decorated a cake to commemorate the day.

On September 4th, 2013 I had my first MRI revealing my brain damage – a large chunk of my cerebellum had degenerated. The date has now become a personal milestone. In the days and weeks following September 4th, 2013 there was, as you could imagine, a quiet tension. The kind of quiet tension that lingers between the pages of hospital waiting room magazines.

With every test, with every confused doctor I grew more desperate, more convinced I was going to die a young man. Four years later my brain damage is still unaccounted for. However, 18 months after the MRI, a muscle biopsy revealed an autoimmune disorder, sarcoidosis, that causes inflammation, not degeneration.

Four years later doctors are still nosing through medical journals searching for precedent. They are still hypothesizing.

I say, let them hypothesize. For the only fact that matters today is  – I’m still alive. And according to the Boss, that ain’t no sin.

If the September 4th picture marks my worst day, a day which initiated the worst stretch of days I have ever experienced, I’ve learned that celebrating your worst day is an important step toward healing. Though I’m not physically healed, and may never be, mentally, emotionally and spiritually I’m stronger for having endured my worst day.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms  – to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Victor Frankl (author, psychologist, neurologist)

Struggling is lonely work.

Often, when we struggle we alienate the very people who take us to our appointments, who hold our hand, who cry alongside us. It’s understandable that when we struggle we become selfish. We fall into ourselves. Yet by doing so we fail to recognize the anguish others may be in because of our struggling.

Cutting cake (even a poorly decorated one) and celebrating your worst day is an important step toward healing. A sugary reminder of how resilient the human spirit can be and how our lives, whether we want the responsibility or not, are the models that others will follow.

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Originally published: November 13, 2017
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