This article was originally published on the Wake Forest School of Divinity student blog, “The Tablet,” on April 4, 2017.
Last month I had the pleasure of taking Dr. Marsha Foster Boyd’s weekend class on Death and Grief. Friday night was great, but by the end of the evening, I was feeling a bit run down. This is normal for me though as my body usually requires more rest than healthy bodies do. But Saturday morning I woke up with a very upset stomach, and even though I tried to talk my way out of it, it was apparent by lunch time that this wasn’t my normal sick.
I went down first, then my youngest son Griffin, then by Monday it hit my middle son Gage, and by Wednesday, the stomach virus had made its way back around to me. Oy vey!
During my short presence in class though, I recognized a theme for my grief. Most of my loss is not centered on the physical deaths of people I love, but rather the emotional deaths of ways of being. Grief that I have a disability that will only worsen as time goes on, grief that I will never be able to have any more biological children because of this disease, grief over a future I had plans for.
I thought I had done a good job of dealing with this grief over the years. I’m a “suck it up buttercup” and a “someone has it worse” kind of emotional healer. I get knocked down, and jump right back up again, brushing off the dust so as not to leave any marks or wrinkles on my pants.
But on March 9, 2017, that changed.
My treatments were not as effective as they had been, so my rheumatologist and I had the “it’s time to change your meds” talk and I decided that an invasive chemo option would be the best fit for my busy life. While the chemo would make me ill during the two infusions I would have two weeks apart, I wouldn’t require any infusions or shots for six months after that. This gave me freedom. And in a life that’s filled with constant doctor visits, infusion every eight weeks, blood work every four weeks, weekly, and daily meds, this gave me hope for a sense of normalcy. No shots or infusions for six months…I’ll take the puking (after all, some people have it worse)…sign me up!
Then came infusion day, and forty-five minutes into said “miracle chemo drug that I was pinning all my desires of not being a pincushion on for the next six months” and I started to break out into hives. It literally started at the top of my head, the itching, oh the horrible itching. Then my ears felt like they were on fire and turned dark pink and even swelled up a little. Then the rash started on my right cheek. My doctor pulled the plug, er rather, the needle. No more of this medicine, I was having an allergic reaction to it.
Wait, that’s not how this was supposed to go down. I was going to have six months of freedom, and within ten minutes it was decided that the best, and only, treatment option left for me at this time would be a shot every week. I walked in with plans for six months of nothing and walked out with a shot every week. That’s not cool body, not cool.
I was on the floor, not in a physical sense, but an emotional one. I came back to what we learned in Dr. Foster Boyd’s weekend course. Grief comes in many forms, at many stages of life, and hits us in many ways. This was one of them. I needed to grieve the loss of this idealized plan. There was sadness, anger, frustration, questioning. There were tears of rage, hurt, and pain. More importantly, I know the loss and grief I am experiencing is probably the only normal thing to come out of this situation.