There we were pulling up to Duke Hospital. While we sat at the stop light I looked at the enormity of the structure before us. The view was different for me this time as I was a passenger going to my one year check up. I never entered the actual hospital through the front doors. I was taken by ambulance and the only view I had was from the back of the ambulance and the window inside my hospital room. But there we were waiting for the light to turn green, and as I looked at the large Duke Hospital sign a wave of emotions came over me. I had to hold back the tears. I was taken back that seeing the building where I spent ten days would affect me so profoundly. But it was so much more than the building, it was the physical representation of my journey that has changed me in so many ways.
I turned to my husband and said, “Whoa, this is kinda surreal?!?!” As we approached the medical building adjacent to the hospital, we had to wait in a long line of cars for valet parking. No, we are not super fancy, but it is the easiest way to get in and out of the medical center. It’s a POTS patient’s nightmare because of the chaos! I saw two lines, one for the cancer center and one for the building we were entering. The line was so long! How could this many people be so sick? I quickly became overstimulated as POTS patients often do and my husband could tell I was feeling overwhelmed. So, he took over all the decision making from that point until we entered the actual clinic. He had me hold onto him to walk inside until we could get a wheelchair.
Once in the building, we starting heading down the long halls of different medical clinics. I continued to be so overwhelmed with all the sickness that surrounded me. Some people were on gurnys, some in wheelchairs, and some using walkers. We stopped to use the restroom and as I was waiting I thought “Wow! This is just so crazy! My heart breaks for each and every patient in here!” And then suddenly I looked down and saw I was in a wheelchair.
Wait a second…I am sick too! That’s why we are here!
We continued into the clinic for my appointment. I considered the appointment a success as many questions were answered. I was able to further understand other things that are going on within my body that are not normal, and although I don’t know if these things will improve, I was relieved to gain a better understanding of my condition. As anyone with chronic illness knows, answers are not always simple, so any knowledge and information you can gain is considered a win.
But, yesterday I learned something more valuable than what was discussed in my doctor visit. If I look back over the last year of my life, POTS has seemed to take a great deal from me. It has taken away my ability to drive which has made me dependent on others for almost everything. It has taken away my ability to enjoy certain hobbies, go on vacations, and daily it threatens to take away my quality of life. POTS is mean and unrelenting but there are three things it has not been able to penetrate. First, my faith. POTS does not have the ability to steal my faith and I will continue to walk a life of faith no matter what the outcome. Secondly, my family. Sure, I don’t always get to participate as much in every family event, but the love and support I receive from my family is unconditional. And finally, friendships. Some friendships have waned since having POTS, but the strong friendships have only grown stronger.
So, when I look at my life, I don’t think, “Poor, pitiful me.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I believe I am beyond blessed. I have hope for the future, but I also believe in finding quality of life in all circumstances. Sure, POTS makes finding quality of life difficult at times, but I feel as though I still have “life” in the midst of the storm. Maybe because I continue to press forward every chance I get, I have not taken the time to look back and ponder these things. But I believe we must not get stuck in a rut and allow the circumstance to become our identity. Those ruts can quickly turn into ditches, which turn into holes, and before you know it, you are paralyzed. Getting out of a deep hole is much more difficult than moving past a small bump in the road.
Yes, I am sick. Physically I struggle on a daily basis, but I also believe I have gifts that are irreplaceable. I have my faith, family and friends. My life is rich in so many ways! God continues to allow me quality of life in what truly matters as I walk this journey. We are not promised an easy journey, but we are promised He will walk with us every step of the way. There is beauty to be found in the ashes of your life. Sometimes the most beautiful gifts are hidden in the darkest nights of our soul. Maybe I won’t need to go to my two-year check up, and maybe I will end up there much sooner. I cannot predict the future. But, I can say, even in sickness, He can bring “life and health” into your soul.