I can have lost my teacup and be miserable.
I can have lost my teacup and be all right.
Either way, the teacup is gone.
…and my favorite of all time (maybe). Perspective, baby, perspective. I’m here to tell you that life isn’t much more than spin. What lesson are you going to take away when what you want most is taken away? Do you even know what it is you want most? Or, like most of us, do you just think you do…
What I thought I wanted most was to attend Penn State, first and foremost, become a Registered Dietitian, make money and retire in the Carolina sand and sun. Nice life – help some people along the way, use my past experiences/trials/struggles to speak to others of wisdom/justice/overcoming. Maybe write sometime, someday, about something or other. Maybe. Catch some Dave concerts and Penn State football games with my husband every once in a while.
Guess what? It’s never too late to revise your dreams. And in most cases, they will be revised for you, without your consent, without your knowledge. Maybe something subtle happens one day and a domino effect eventually nudges you to change your focus and you realize your ambitions and goals had nothing to do with your purpose in life. Or, maybe like me, it happens in one quick sucker punch to the gut, forced to your knees, back down to ground-level, reset, do not pass go, do not collect …. My sucker punch came on November 25th – the day before Thanksgiving. Prior to this date, I was seen twice in the ER for what they continued to assume was Vertigo (dizziness, lack of coordination, nausea, vomiting). I was given tons of medication and a motion sickness patch. On November 24th I had a bad reaction to the patch and temporarily lost my eyesight. A frightened Thommy brought me back to the hospital where the Dr. suggested an MRI might be in order. No insurance, no thank you. Within 24 hours I would be back in the emergency room, unable to stop vomiting, unable to walk, unable to think clearly. My blood pressure had dropped down to around 70/40 and no amount of Zofran or IV fluid made the situation better. I asked for the MRI. Preliminary results came back with 10 subcortical and deep white matter lesions in the right frontal lobe. The Dr. said it could be Lyme Disease, but it was most likely Multiple Sclerosis. A spinal tap – well, actually TWO spinal taps – confirmed that I do in fact have Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS). The internet is a many-splendored thing, and a quick Google search should give you all the information you need if you are so inclined to research the disease etiology, prognosis or treatment.
I set out to post this note with factual information about my health and give everyone a heads up that since I won’t be able to attend Penn State in the fall due to a one year declared disability (by my Neurologist, while we tweak my medications) and since I am unable to work during this year, that Thommy and I are considering moving back to NY in the spring or summer to be closer to family. But that’s not what I feel like talking about anymore, since those are pieces of this puzzle that I haven’t quite figured out – these factual questions don’t have answers just yet. So instead, I am here to tell you about love…. and courage… and strength, and how these three things are so closely woven together that it’s impossible to untangle them. It takes courage to love someone at their weakest. It takes strength to give courage to the one you love. And from where I’m sitting, it takes even more courage to accept strength from the one you love the most.
Prior to our marriage, my husband was painfully aware of all my health issues and he bravely fixed what suffering he could and graciously accepted what he could not. I don’t mind telling you that this newest revelation is one we didn’t see coming and one I’m having a hard time accepting, if only in the way that he didn’t get a chance to decide for himself whether it was something he wanted to sign up for. Everything is about to shift underneath us and the guilt of that is almost harder to deal with than the cold hard fact that I’m once again forced to revise my dreams. In fact, it IS harder because I don’t mind being a revisionist. In fact, even writing out the second paragraph of this note feels trivial. To be honest, I’ve never lived my life content with what I was doing or where I was – no, only obsessed with what I would be doing later or where else I was going to be. Honestly, truly, passionately, I believe the following – the next year will be a blessing – even without Penn State, even without my full health. Actually tomorrow will be a blessing. So is this minute, this minute that we are sharing together.
I don’t have all the answers, but I believe I’m finally able to ask the right questions. In all the uncertainty in the face of MS, I know this: I have found my partner and he walks with me through every, single, step and that behind us is the full force of love and compassion from my family and friends who have been there in small ways and big ways and ways I hadn’t even thought of to give comfort and peace. I don’t have MS alone, I have blood and soul relatives wounded as well and for them, I stay strong. I will change my perspective; I won’t allow what I can’t have right now to hurt them. I know that when it seems all hope is lost, that then is the time to surrender and create life anew.
For awhile, my Facebook activity will be sporadic and I want you all to have my contact information – specifically my cell phone which as you all know, is not something I was prone to actually using. See, the times they are a changing.
My cell is 814-769-6340, my address is 465 S. Main Street, Pleasant Gap PA 16823 and my email is email@example.com. There are also blog addresses – which I will post soon. I’m writing, I’m a writer, I write!
Lastly, I need to say thank you –
To you, Thommy, for rejecting all suggestions of divorce, for not standing by me because it’s what you “should” do but what you choose to do, knowing no other imaginable way to continue this journey in life but together – for your certainty in the face of not knowing… I love you more than you know.
To my family, for being an unending source of encouragement, support and love, even though I’ve turned out to be quite the pain in the ass.
To Meg, for reminding me that I don’t always have to take it day-to-day if even that seems overwhelming, that occasionally looking not at where we are, but where we are going is perfectly fine, as long as we return to appreciation for what we have in front of us.
To all my friends, co-workers, strangers who have offered wisdom and encouragement – you have reminded me that as much as I may want to isolate myself at times, I am never, ever alone. I especially want to thank all my Frew Crew ladies for their inspiration – I don’t mind saying that I will never stop needing you guys. I love you all to pieces. I also want to thank Justin for understanding that I seek not pity nor condolence, just a friend; please believe that I value the content and context of yours above most. There are few things in life so serious that a good “That’s What She Said” can’t remedy.
I love you all.
Jennifer Marshall: You’re truly an inspiration, lady. I know we aren’t the closest of friends but if you ever need anything — even if it’s just to have someone to share a bitchfest with — don’t hesitate. And best of luck over the coming year. I’ll be keeping you and Thommy and the rest of your family in my thoughts!
December 21, 2009 at 2:36am ·
Danielle Mantia: You are the bravest and most amazing person I know and you deserve all the love and hope in the world that everyone gives you ♥
December 21, 2009 at 3:59am ·
Shula Jaffe Berman: wow what a beautiful note. you brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for giving everyone the opportunity to take a moment and appreciate what really matters in life. What a wonderful reminder. you are inspirational and with your fighting spirit, im sure you will be more than fine…you will thrive! : )
December 21, 2009 at 5:57am ·
Jeannie Wood: Have I told you lately that I love you! With everything that is going on with you… you again are ministering to me. I needed to hear every bit of what you have in this note today. You’re goal is still intact… helping a few people along the way is an understatment Rhea!
December 21, 2009 at 9:43am ·
Amy Lauzon Johnson: You are in inspiration, Rhea! Let me know if you do make your way back to the wonderful state of NY so that I can FINALLY come up and visit you!!!! And I mean it this time! I am learning a lot lately about not letting friends slip away…so we HAVE to get together!
December 21, 2009 at 9:09pm ·
Alexandra Boyadjian Horwitz: Rhea, I keep meaning to write this to you, so now is the perfect time: you came here for a reason. Maybe not the reason you originally thought (school), but for a reason. And I firmly believe that you will get to live your “true life” whatever that is, and that you will find your purpose and meaning in life in all of the hardships that have come your way. I love you, and am always thinking of you. Please let me know if there is anything I can do, other than love you.
December 21, 2009 at 9:55pm ·
Alyssa Bieler: you, lady, are an amazing writer. that was a beautiful and eloquent note. keep writing and let us keep reading and although you’ve got another beast to fight you’ll no doubt accomplish great things along the way. and you made me log onto facebook again.
December 21, 2009 at 10:02pm ·
Polly Ehrlich: rhea, you are such a brave, amazing woman and you have no idea how much i look up to you…please do not hesitate to call me if you need anything or just to chat. i love love love you!
December 21, 2009 at 11:43pm ·
Farrah Laila Saleh: rhea. i love you so much and you inspire me so much. you are in my thoughts and prayers . i hope you have a wonderful holiday.
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