“Once you choose hope, anything is possible” – Christopher Reeve
There have been many times in this journey, that I have nearly been drowned by despair for my daughter and family. It’s almost as if all the day to day of arthritis carried me away. The days of watching Caitlin in pain, struggling to find the right medications, going to doctor’s appointments, preparing injections, running hot baths, calling the nurse, recording the symptoms in a journal… crying alone…these things carried me farther and farther away from shore. My strength ebbed and my spirit sagged as I drifted farther away from security and peace. Until I looked back to find the horizon of what was once a “normal” life, and I could barely see it anymore. I floundered out there in the ocean, treading water, trying to decide which way to swim and wondering if we would ever make it back.
It was during these times that Hope gently scooped me up and quietly pulled me back against the tide towards the safety of dry land. Despite what the lab results were, or the bills were, or what seemed like endless failures…..Hope kept silently tugging me, lifting me over the dark, turbulent waves and surf of arthritis, back to a place I could feel my feet go safely into the sand. Once there, I could see that the shore had changed in my absence – it was not exactly as I had remembered it. But it was beautiful and welcoming. Hope brought me back to our new normal.
Yes, I guess it’s a melodramatic metaphor. But honestly, hope is tremendously powerful. When I look back on this time last year in particular, with the helpful separation of time, I marvel that we got through it. Caitlin’s pain level was so high; she developed a myriad of accompanying symptoms. She had eating problems and stomach issues, which landed us with a GI specialist. She started having problems in school and her grades and confidence plummeted. I think the worse was the incredible anxiety, which permeated everything. She was unable to sleep and we did this horrible dance every night, trying desperately to coax her into slumber – so exhausted ourselves (I was six months pregnant) that I would have run through the streets naked if it would have meant a full night’s rest. We saw a psychologist, and a pain management team. She had acupuncture and massage and sipped sleepy time tea. We tried herbal remedies and hot baths and bribes….but if she woke to find that she was the only one still awake, she still freaked out and could not stop herself from waking us up. If we responded with anger, a raging tantrum ensued. I sometimes worried that the neighbors would call CPS. There was screaming and crying and desperation – and it felt endless sometimes.
When Christmas arrived, Santa almost could not make it to our house – because Caitlin was up almost all night. She slept with me, yet could not sleep even with me calmly stroking her back and brow. She shot up every twenty to thirty minutes, heart racing, filled with panic. Finally, Santa left her gifts in the living room (usually he leaves them on the foot of the bed) with a note telling her he hoped she felt better soon. Hope. We all hoped and wished…..and prayed and continued to try things to get back to a reasonable life. It was often the only thing that kept us moving forward – the belief that there would be a better future and some remedy for my daughter.
The description is not meant to somehow quantify my family’s struggle as greater or worse than any other. Because everybody’s pain is relative… and there are families that I cherish and hope for, that are enduring battles I cannot imagine experiencing. But we do have many things in common, despite the severity or description of what arthritis has meant to us… We all have to find the spirit to get through it. We all have to get back to shore.
That’s where the happy ending of this chapter comes in. This year was a miraculous turning point for Caitlin. Her hip replacement surgery changed her life for the better in more ways than I can count. The daily pain, and anxiety… and all of the troubling accompaniments of insomnia, and headache, stomach ache, fear, rage… they all dissipated into the wind like a bad dream. We still struggled with arthritis and I have no doubt that we will many times into the future. I harbor no idea that we will escape being swept out to sea once again sometime. But I know, that Hope will be there once again to lead us back to shore.
Hope alone does not manifest great change, but I think it can give you the strength to find the answers and seek the solutions. Hope is an incredible gift…. And it is one I wish for all in this Arthritis family this season and into the New Year. Best hopes and blessings to you…..