Favorite Quote

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."
-Randy Pausch

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Inconvenient Truth

Life has been quite a roller coaster of relentless emotions since my last blog entry.  I can't believe it's been almost a year.  So much has happened.  I've grown more than I could ever imagine.  But it took me hitting rock bottom to get there.

I guess I'll start from the beginning...

After leaving the hospital last September my body was in complete shock.  My joints were extremely swollen, full of fluid and creaky, reminiscent of an 80 year old body, not that of a 29 year old.  My body ached.  I whimpered on the drive home.  My body was revolting because of the swift prednisone taper my doc put me on(going from 80mg of Solu-Medrol [intravenous steroids] to 30mg of oral prednisone in 8 days).  I was miserable but appreciated the quick taper.  I swore I would never go on prednisone again after 2008, and held out as long as I could in 2010, but ultimately it was the prednisone that saved both my life and my colon last September.

Two weeks post hospitalization my doc asked me how I was doing (I had to see him weekly for about a month and a half).  I said my colon was happy, but the rest of my body hurt.  It felt much older than 29.  It was during this time that I told myself I would never go on prednisone again.  To me, the side effects just weren't worth it.  And still aren't.  I have no plans on ever putting that drug in my veins or mouth again.  

After about a month and a half my joints returned to normal with the exception of my hands.  To this day I still occasionally feel like I have jugs in my hands.  It's a weird "full" feeling that I can't quite describe.  Occasionally, on cloudy days, random finger joints will ache, though that is slowly going away.  Let me remind you, it's been almost a year.  My ortho doc said it will take time.  I'm still being optimistic and know that it will all work out.

A combination of an achy body and unhappy hands sent me into my first bout of darkness.  I was so frustrated.  I wondered why the rest of my body should suffer simply to save my colon.  I was pissed.  I mean, I did EVERYTHING right.  I tried so many damn diets, ate as bland as possible, didn't drink anything but water and freshly juiced vegetable and fruit drinks, slept between 8-10 hours a day, and my colon still flared.  I had essentially let my entire life, and that of my husband, revolve around my freakin colon since 2006.  I felt so damn powerless.  I had no control, even after doing everything right.

These feelings bred bitterness.  And anger.  I swore that if my colon started to flare again, it was coming out.  I began to despise it.  I was done living my life around it.  I felt that it had robbed me of my career, my self confidence, my athletic ability, my health, and at times, my future.  I felt left behind.  It seemed that everybody around me was progressing and I was somehow stuck in a stagnant cloud, not able to escape.  I wanted to scream, and at times, I did.

In late December I hit rock bottom.  I lost it.  I just couldn't take it anymore.  The bitterness, anger, fear, jealousy, uncertainty, and sadness had gotten the best of me.  I curled into a ball on the couch and screamed, cried, and kicked.  I just could not take it anymore.  My wonderful husband curled around me and tried to calm me down.  Looking back, I feel for him as he probably thought he was going to have to drop me off at the looney bin.

During the darker times of this past year (most notably December) I found solace, peace, and God in the mountains of Washington State.  I also learned the biggest underlying struggle I have had in my life since being diagnosed in 2006.

It started when I told my husband that I wanted to summit Rainier for my 30th birthday and summit Everest for my 40th.  He then told me to take it one step at a time, but knew deep down that my stubborn nature was yet again taking me to the extreme.  We'd been through this several times with cycling.  I had such lofty goals that, due to illness, I could never quite achieve because my body was not ready for intense racing.  But, as usual, I always had to push the limits, only to fall short time and time again.  He did not want to go through this same vicious cycle with mountaineering.

It wasn't until we were at dinner with our good friends, Steve and Janelle, that the inconvenient truth came to light.  I told Steve and Janelle of my summit goals, but they knew the true driving force behind it.  Eloquently put, Steve said:  "Achieving the impossible is not going to make you happy."  And I began to cry as a great realization released itself from the depths of my inner being.

It now all made sense.

Since being diagnosed in 2006 I had pushed myself, to a fault, to achieve things that were far fetched in the hopes that I could prove to myself that Ulcerative Colitis did not run my life.  I felt that if I could win a bike race or summit numerous mountains than I would validate myself as an individual.   What I failed to realize is that those that matter most to me do not care about any of those things, they just want me to be happy and healthy and not waste my time chasing "dreams" fueled by misguided emotions.

I am forever indebted to Steve and Janelle for this very critical turning point in my life.  I would still like to summit numerous mountains,  but instead of being so focused on the summit, I want to enjoy every step of the journey.  If it happens, it happens.  If it doesn't, it doesn't.  Regardless, I'll embark on each journey for the right reasons.

Sometimes the truth hurts, but it changes each of us for the better.

Climbing my favorite mountain this winter!!


Amber in June said...

Aww, Emma, I wish I could give you a hug right now! I understand about the feeling left behind, that's how I feel working at the library, and I don't have all the health problems you do. Take care of yourself, girly, and I can't wait until you make it back to WA (Matt, too). Maybe we can finally go snow shoeing some time, eh?

Anonymous said...

Emma, I shared your blog with my entire company on our internal extranet with my profile. I hope more people will read about your amazing journies. Love you! Arthur

Rooster said...

Nice photo! My question is, did you snowboard down?!

Emma said...

Rooster! I totally don't know how to snowboard! I'm just snowshoeing at the moment and am getting into mountaineering, but seriously need to learn how to ski/snowboard for easy transition down!!

jody said...

I came across your blog and I would love to know how you are doing. I was diagnosed with UC in August 2012 and I am terrified. I have started Remicaid....just finished my 3rd infusion and I'm getting better. I just want my life back. I'm only 28 and I have 3 children and this disease controls every part of my life. I went from being a perfectly healthy active mom of 3 to so sick and Ina hospital bed for almost a month