Spring is so amazing. I know, the cliché etc. but every year it is such a beautiful shock to the system. All these dynamic forceful changes, every morning another colour, another smell. And the noisy birds, singing and shrieking and mating and digging through the vegetable beds.
Four years ago there were times when spring was all I could hold onto. It feels almost foolish now that I have turned into this veteran of chronic illness. But there was this raw time of loss and grief and this inability to come to terms with something that was never meant to be in my life, at least not in the life I had up to then and imagined to stretch all the way into the future.
Three memories stick out.
1. One of the experts who initially diagnosed me had alerted another of his patients because - so he thought - there were so many similarities in our diagnosis and course of illness and comparing our stories could help me in the long run. He had asked for my permission to pass on my email address and several weeks later she replied. Full of apologies for the delay because she had fractured her collarbone while on a skiing trip. A what? Here I was trying to hold onto the frazzled bits of my former life, every morning waking up to the booming thoughts of the potential of this diagnosis (everything from drug side effects, kidney failure, going blind and/or deaf to, well obviously, death - I do know how to recognise drama) and she has come back from a skiing trip! Clearly, this was a mistake and we were not talking about the same thing here. But yes, we were because she had in fact gone deaf, dramatically within one dreadful night of high fever. And apart from the fact that my hearing was fine again, her list of symptoms was mine down to the finer details. And then she wrote: While I cannot tell you how and when, I can promise you that you will feel better again, that this heavy flare up will calm down once the drugs have started to work. And all I could think: promise? How dare she promise me anything? Look at me, look how ill I am.
2. Some time earlier, a friend had given me a voucher for ten shiatsu sessions, again with the promise that this would make me feel so much better. It did not but mostly because getting there was too hard. On my way to the second appointment I drove down a one-way street in the wrong direction and was almost flattened by an oncoming bus. It didn't help that I am a careful driver (sorry, yes I am!) and that I had been living in this one-way system city for almost 20 years. The shiatsu woman was experienced and kind enough to suggest we postpone. Instead she made tea and told me that, for a fact, our bodies, our cells, our tiniest atoms are there for only one reason: health. And that they/our bodies are continuously working on repair and recovery, always striving for health. Not my body, I wanted to tell her that day but I was too exhausted and not quite sure how to get home.
3. Soon after that I was waiting for my father to pick me up from yet another hospital after a week of tests confirming that I was unable to tolerate the drug I had been taking in high doses for the last three months and that this was possibly responsible for most of the heavy symptoms I was experiencing. So they swiftly changed medications, ran another couple of tests and sent me home with best wishes. There was a small cafe with outside seating and I sat down and started reading the headlines of the newspapers on display the way I always do this. A volcano had erupted in Iceland and brought air traffic to a standstill. Somewhere too high for me to see the ash clouds were drifting and shifting but all I could see was the sky, clear and blue and calm and so vast I wanted to fly up and disappear into it.
And now, four years later, there it is, like a cut under the skin that will not, will never heal. No matter how hard my atoms strive for health. And yet. There is no denying, I feel complete.