I’ve experienced a tremendous amount of stress lately, and it’s taken its toll. There are some spring colds making the rounds, one a bit nasty, and of course I caught it. I spent last weekend – Easter weekend – at home. Felt fine as long as I didn’t do anything stupid like, oh, get up and walk to the kitchen, the bathroom, the front door. I wasn’t feeling up to doing much at all that whole time. From Friday evening to Tuesday morning, my world was my house. Spent the rest of the week catching up from one day off. I missed the Easter egg hunt at my father’s house, with all the kids searching, the grass unmown to make it more challenging. We have three new walkers this year, and one who’s close to it. I didn’t get to see any of them. It took me a few hours to finally acknowledge that I didn’t feel well enough to make the half-hour drive to his house, much less spend a long day out and about. Didn’t sing at church Easter morning, either. It was those two things that convinced me maybe I needed to take a day off from work. Missing two things that I love? I wasn’t feeling well at all. As it turned out, I probably should have taken Tuesday as well. I didn’t feel myself until yesterday afternoon.
The stress level is taking its toll in other ways, too. Right now, I am in an amazing amount of pain. The arthritis in my lower back is flaring up, the back of my skull has been killing me, to the point where I’m having a hard time concentrating this morning, and a headache I used to get fairly regularly has made an appearance.◊ It varied in intensity. Sometimes it was just annoying, other times, outright crippling. The only thing I could really do for it was take two aspirin, two ibuprofen, and two naproxen. Because of the PKD, I’m not supposed to be taking any of those, so I don’t have any in the house. So, my head hurts in two places, severely, my back is making it difficult to stand or sit for long periods of time, and I’m expecting my jaw to snap at any moment, I’ve been clenching it so hard. I know where the greatest source of my stress is coming from, and I’m trying to do something about it before it kills me. Funny how that doesn’t really feel like hyperbole right now.
Still, we go on.
It’s been a difficult time for local heroes here. I’ve already mentioned FAO Daryl Gordon, who lost his life working to save others’. His memorial procession was televised. Firefighters from Columbus came down to staff the Cincinnati firehouses, so that they could honor their lost brother, and the city remained safe. Not long after that, George Brooks, a retired police lieutenant who was working a funeral procession, was killed by a motorist who didn’t want to wait. There are laws for funeral processions. Learn them.
Finally, yesterday morning we had news that shook this town, even while it wasn’t really unexpected. Lauren Hill*, Indiana native, Mt. St Joseph student, basketball player, and advocate and voice for pediatric cancer research, passed away. I was getting ready for work, finishing up breakfast or something, when I saw the tail end of a crawl mentioning her. I didn’t see the beginning, but I was afraid of what it said. I was late to work yesterday, because I had to know. I won’t say she lost her fight, because she didn’t. Maybe it didn’t end the way we’d have liked, but she won. She made a difference, and she will be remembered for it. Her courage and kindness will live on. She could have sat back and relaxed, and no one but the most calloused would blame her. She was tired, she was in pain, but she had a mission. Devon Still, NFL football player who gained fame because of the actions of the Bengals’ front office, who kept him on the payroll so he would have insurance for his daughter, Leah, befriended Lauren. She knew Leah too, of course. Devon Still was anxious about having that conversation with his daughter, how she would handle it, how he would handle it. Leah knows Lauren is among the angels now. She’s a strong little girl herself.
Just a few days before, ABC News posted a story on her. Referencing an interview she had with our local ABC affiliate, asking how she’d like people to remember her, she said “She was a hero and she showed cancer who’s boss.” No, she didn’t lose that battle; she fired some powerful shots in that war.
I generally don’t like putting people up on pedestals as heroes, posing heroically on a marble plinth. If so-and-so can do it with all those issues, so can you? That’s not fair. Everyone’s journey is different; comparing one to another is a good way to foster resentment. Still, the stories deserve to be shared. Not so much to make us feel badly about not doing more, but to remind us that we can do more than we think. I’ll never run a marathon – not that that was a goal, but I would like to do a 5K again – because that would make me sick. Haven’t quite figured out why; my best guess is the walking shakes the kidneys up quite a bit. They are kinda large, after all. No more roller coasters for me, and I’ll probably never get to skydive†. I’m not helpless, though, and it’s not hopeless. An attitude shift can do wonders.‡ There will be bad days, and far as I’m concerned, a little complaining and self-pity is probably good for us. Can’t live there, though.
So I hurt, I’m extremely stressed, and it is literally making me sick. I’m still breathing, still walking, still moving forward. It’s a beautiful spring day, the magnolias are blooming, and I have a camera. I’ll need to eat first, but then, off I go. Next week, I have meetings with a couple of people who might be able to help with removing the greatest stressor in my life. Hint: It’s not my health.
Thank you, Lauren, for all you did. Never give up.
◊In case you’re curious, the pain starts at the base of my skull on the right side, travels around my head, just above my ear, my temple, the right side of my forehead, the center, the left side, and finally ends up at the base of my skull on the left side. When it’s not bad, I can ignore it. Not this time.
*Lauren Hill became a very vocal advocate for The Cure Starts Now Foundation, raising over a million dollars in an incredibly short amount of time. She’s gone, but the cause remains.
†Yes, this is something I’ve actually wanted to do. I gave up on solo skydiving years ago; now I don’t think I could even do tandem. Not because of the stress on the joints, but the rigging on the kidneys. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make the cysts burst.
‡There’s a difference between delusion and optimism. Saying happy things and ignoring the unpleasant ones is delusion. Recognizing that sometimes life really sucks, and going on anyway, not dwelling on it (not ignoring it, just not wallowing), and reminding yourself of what you still can do, that’s optimism. In my opinion, anyway.