Saturday, October 2, 2021

Finding Joy in the Journey

I am not a pessimist by nature. I try to always see the bright side of things. I try to look past the storms and find the rainbows. That was much harder to do this past seven and a half months. I was beset with illness and infections and pain management and fighting with insurance to get them to cover the same treatments I've had before. That part I'm pretty much used to. What came as a shock was the new diagnosis.

You always hear people comment about how children look like one or the other of their parents and I was always aware that I looked more like my Dad and had his sense of humor, but I had my Mom's sensibility and compassion. These are the kinds of things you hope to inherit from your parents. It never occurred to me that I would inherit their medical conditions as well until I was diagnosed with Diabetes a few years ago. It was diagnosed early and I was determined to do everything I could to minimize the effects. So far, so good.

In an attempt to be proactive with my health, I signed up for this amazing new heart tomography scan that can detect heart disease even before there are symptoms (since it was an issue with my Mom). Thankfully, I showed zero signs of heart disease. No problems at all!  

So when I had a routine eye exam this year and the eye doctor told me of an exceptional new test for Macular Degeneration (which my Mom also suffered from) that could diagnose it before you even had the typical symptoms, I said, "Let's do it." I was all for anything that I could do to prevent any future problems.

I flunked the test! He said there was a longer test I could take that would be more accurate. (My mind went back to when I flunked a one hour test for gestational diabetes and had to take the three hour test. It turned out that my body was just slow to metabolize the sugar but in the end I passed the three hour test with flying colors. This had to be something similar, Right?) "Sign me up!", I said thinking this was going to turn out the same way. I totally flunked the second test. In fact, it was so bad, I knew I flunked it a third of the way through the test when it kept repeating the same series over and over again. 

I was told that this test could diagnose Macular Degeneration before I had any symptoms. Then came the bomb. It turns out that I already had some symptoms and didn't realize it. I had early stage Macular Degeneration and it could start progressing anywhere from 6 months to 10 years from now. There was no way to predict when. It was just a matter of keeping a vigilant watch for symptoms so we could try to slow down the progression of the vision loss.

I'm not na├»ve on this subject. I took my Mom to all of her appointments and treatments. I always knew that this could be a possibility but I thought that if I ever got it, I would be in my eighties like Mom. I'm 56. Suddenly everything I thought I knew to be true was at risk.  I went home and sat in our family room stunned. Across the room was the bookcase with all of the children's books we'd collected over the years while raising our kids. We were saving them for when we (hopefully) had grandchildren. I always pictured myself reading them to the next generation. Now, who knows?

As with any major life change, I was devastated. I began to grieve for a loss that was just out there in the distance somewhere waiting to pounce. As for the stages of grief:

1. Denial and isolation - There was no denying this. I didn't even try. As for isolation, we're all in isolation and wearing masks. I'll admit, it did make it easier to take time to absorb it all.

2. Anger - I wasn't angry. It was more of a sense of loss. I was mugged once by a bike messenger on 23rd street on my way back to work from a lunch break. It felt more like that. It came out of nowhere, took something precious, and left me frozen in the middle of the street dumbfounded.

3. Bargaining - I guess since I didn't deny it, I didn't even think to bargain. This is probably because I trust God with my life and know that his plans and His timing are so much better than anything I could come up with. Yet, it was still a bitter pill to swallow.

4. Depression - Yep! Definitely. It seemed like the more time passed the deeper the reality set in (remember, I had a day by day front row seat to this show with my Mom). I started wondering when I would lose my sight and began researching how one learns to function without sight. 

5. Acceptance - I truly accepted the diagnosis the day I got it. For me the final stage is more like Determination. I realized that there are SO MANY things I want to learn and do (especially as a crafter) and that I'd better get to it because time was a luxury I could no longer count on.

This led to a mini surge of crafty fun. Mind you, I'm still dealing with pain management issues which are still limiting me from being at my craft desk so I've begun by doing whatever I can from my chair in the family room. 

The first thing I did was pull out my stash of yarn. I've always made baby blankets for family & friends when they are having their first child. I like to find patterns with lots of open spaces because I discovered with my own babies that they could stick their little fingers in the holes to pull the blankets up or raise their little legs and put their toes in the holes to pull the blankets back down.

It occurred to me that if I were blessed with grandbabies, I would want to make blankets for them as well. So that's what I've started to do. I don't know if/when I might have grandchildren, but if the day comes, there will be blankets made and ready (whatever my sight might be at the time).

I've also signed up for a series of watercolor projects and purchased some basket making kits (more on those in a future post).I'm about 2 days from finishing the first blanket and I'm very excited about it. It's been a joy to work on it in the evenings while watching tv with my husband. 

One last thing to add was a project just for me. It seems most everything I've made over the years was for other people so I got a very special cross stitch kit just for me. It's a long-term project as it's a 16"x20" of Claude Monet's Garden and I'm so very excited to be working on it.

This pretty much sums up what started out as a "Short Break" and ended with pure determination to take in the sights, learn new things, provide for the future, and find joy in creativity! I hope to post the first of the baby blankets as soon as it's done and to keep updating the blog as the flurry of craftiness continues. I hope this inspires you to find joy in your journey.


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