on fear and triumph

Two weeks ago was the last time I left my 10 month old daugher with our babysitter. When our weekly standing date came one week ago, we were both battling fevers and influenza A, so we stayed home to snuggle together snottily. Today I brought my laptop out with me and hopefully in the future I’ll continue to be productive with this time rather than spending it grocery shopping and crying in the Whole Foods parking lot, which has been the case before.

Two weeks ago I spent the entire afternoon with an herbalist friend making a care plan to support my Crohn’s Disease symptoms. Following a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy I was awaiting biopsy results and was feeling quite certain that some of my polyps or the erosion in the antrum of my stomach would turn out to be cancer. When you’ve have a chronic inflammatory bowel disease for over 25 years it is rare to avoid surgery and cancer.

My biopsies were clear and my herbalist friend has promised infused oils, teas, tinctures and altar setup that we discussed. Thanks to the evaporated specter of cancer and the wonders of low-dose steroids, plus the first in my latest series of iron sucrose IV infusions and the return of spring, I am feeling much more hopeful than I was.

What doesn’t get better is the notion of living with chronic illness. Metaphors of battle and war are irrelevant in the face of a body that just functions differently. My immune system does a great job a lot of the time, but it also eats away at my digestive epithelial lining. Ulcers, diarrhea, malnutrition and fatigue get me down. Talking to my herbalist friend I had a breakthrough, recalling a homeopathy class in 2007 at East West College of Natural Medicine in Sarasota where I was once the subject of a case study. One of the students asked if I was afraid that my Crohn’s Disease would kill me.

“No, I said, not exactly.” My greatest fear, I told the class, was that I would die before getting to be a mother. And that did not happen. Ten years after naming my greatest fear it occurred to me that I had conquered it. Maybe my chronic illness will never disappear, but my triumph at vanquishing my greatest fear will also never go away.