For the past six years I have suffered with chronic health issues, pain, and overall poor health. I advocated for my health, certain there was, in fact, a serious problem(s) and visited surgeon after surgeon, specialist after specialist, only to hear, “this may be your normal.” The past four months have been particularly difficult, though. I have been so sick that my body has become weak and frail. I often feel as though the wind may blow me over like it does the beautiful and delicate, though fragile falling Autumn leaves. I refused to accept this as my normal.
This past week I was hospitalized for the tenth time since July, when I had major emergency surgery. I underwent an operation that I’ve had before (many times). Feeling hopeless and defeated, and, admittedly feeling pretty sorry for myself, I was sure this surgery was just another band-aid to “cover-up” the real issue; whatever they may be.
As I woke to the Recovery Nurse gently stirring me, I knew something was different. I felt better two hours post-op than I had in six months! Soon I was transferred to my inpatient room where I was to share with an elderly woman who barely made a peep, though she constantly had her family at her bedside; her children, her grandchildren, and even her sister. Instantly though, I knew if she needed anything I would do my best to help her. On a few too many occasions she called for help and nobody came. So, I used all my strength to find someone for her. She also had a difficult time understanding the concept of the “call-light” so I showed her how to use it, and encouraged her to do so to alleviate her discomfort.
About the third night of my stay, a doctor came into our room. She asked my roommate if she had any family that she may call as she’s like to discuss some test results. My roommate’s son was there faster than the speed of light, having rushed to his beloved mother’s side. I hated hearing the conversation that ensued, but being separated by only a thin curtain made it virtually impossible for me not to hear.
As it turned out, that doctor was an oncologist and had come to deliver the life changing news that this woman, whom had survived breast cancer twice, was terminally ill with cancer that had started in her lungs and aggressively spread throughout her body. As her son attempted to be strong for his mother, I could hear the desperation, fear, and grief in his voice. As a mother of one child, a son, I couldn’t help but weep for both mother and son. As a mother, I would never want my son to feel he has to be strong for me. I am his mother and until I am called Home, it will be my job to keep him feeling safe and secure.
Soon evening turned to-night turned to-morning and my roommate’s granddaughter was back to see her “Gram.” Again, that thin curtain doesn’t yield much sound proofing qualities, so when I overheard “Gram” ask her granddaughter, “what happened to me,” I was once again reduced to tears. Tears of sorrow for this lovely woman and her family and tears of shame for all of the complaining I’ve done during my struggle. Pretty quickly “Gram’s” room filled up and more oncologists came in to brief the family; explaining that hospice was their strongest recommendation to ensure “Gram’s” quality of life was preserved for as long as possible. What struck me most was hearing “Gram” speak up louder than she had all week and proclaimed “I want to fight. I’ve always been a fighter.” Sadly, it was too late for “Gram.”I was so moved by this woman’s strength, courage, and determination that I wish I had asked for her contact information.
As artists, whether writer, musician, or actor, we all write quite a bit about inspiration. What inspires us? Who inspires us? Where do we go to be inspired? I was able to answer all of those questions for myself this past week. I am humbled and inspired to have shared the same room with such a brave, strong, and loved woman. I will never forget her and I pray her soul finds peace and that her family heals. I learned more about gratitude, inspiration, and courage this week than I have in my 32 years.