I was twenty-four. I was sitting in a doctor’s office and was desperately hoping that this doctor would be different. I was hoping he would finally have the answers I was seeking. You see, for the previous six months, I had been a spectator as my body carried out a mutinous attack against me. I had been to more specialist than I realized existed. I was searching for answers. I was watching before my very eyes, as my body deteriorated and betrayed me. The majority of these brilliant minds agreed that something was seriously wrong as they assessed my symptoms. But no one could put a name to the debilitating pain and fatigue I was experiencing. In late December of 1999 I found myself alone sitting in this doctor’s office hoping against hope that this doctor could finally put all the pieces together and explain why the body of a relatively healthy young woman was imploding.
All these years later, I still remember the doctor walking in and gently shaking my hand. He visited with me for about five minutes, asked me a few questions, and then he said, “You know you have Lupus, right?” As those six words washed over me, I quietly responded, “I know...I just needed a doctor to confirm it.” You see in that moment, I wasn’t upset or angry (that would come later), I was relieved. I was relieved to finally have an answer, a name. I was very much relieved to know I wasn’t crazy or losing my mind.
With those six words, my life drastically changed forever. I wasn’t dying, but also, life would never be the same again. And I had a decision to make. Was I going to let this word--Lupus-- destroy my life, or would I choose to live my life to the very fullest despite this new word that had entered my vocabulary.
Most of us have dreams and visions of how we hope life will turn out. Can I tell you, as a young woman dreaming of the future, Lupus never entered the equation? Writing this twenty years later, I can tell you that most of my dreams from young adulthood never came to be. I can also tell you that getting diagnosed with Lupus wasn’t the first difficulty I encountered in my life, and it definitely wasn’t the last one.
I won’t hesitate to tell you that my life has been hard, but I want you to hear this next thing very clearly--that doesn’t mean my life has been bad. As I thought about what I wanted to share in this post about resilience, I actually sat down and wrote out a list of all the notable traumas, difficulties, and disappointments I’ve faced in my life. The list was long. I won’t share them all--some are quite personal. However, they include major surgeries, multiple chronic illnesses, death, loss, and heartbreak. These things, these heart events, have shaped me into the person I am today. Because of them I am stronger, bolder, more tenacious. I love deeper, laugh harder, and fight more ferociously than I ever thought possible for the things I believe in. I am a survivor. I am a warrior.
You can’t hide from the hard things in life. They have an innate ability to find us. But we have a choice in how we choose to handle those hard things. I absolutely refuse to let the difficulties of life overwhelm me. Trauma may shape who I am, but it does not have to define me.
This week's blog writer is Sharon Ricks Keil, an elementary teacher at Harrah Public Schools. She also writes her own blog "Whimsical Warrior" which can be found at www.sharonkeil.com.