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Hello, and welcome to Lemonade Tales! Pardon the dust while I get things rolling. I hope you enjoy the stories of inspiration, courage, and grace. I am humbled by each and every person and their personal struggles. This is the …

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You Never Know What Tomorrow Will Bring.

I was in the middle of my second semester at Grand Valley State University when I got very sick. Not a cold type of sick, I’m talking life-changing-plan-your-funeral sick. I was fine one day and not the next.

School was going great, I liked my classes, and I was involved in all sorts of fun activities and loved my new friends. However, my youthful, free-spirited nature changed drastically after a simple game of racquetball.

Now, I have to say I was always fairly athletic and was a very competitive girl. So I would go hard and fast for the shot. I went for a ball and slammed against the wall and injured my left shoulder/arm muscle. Because I grew up dancing, I knew what a pulled muscle felt like and that’s what is what it was, for several days and even a couple of weeks: A pulled muscle that wasn’t going away. I tried ibuprofen and other over-the-counter pain medications but nothing made it go away. The pain eventually felt like it had spread into my lungs, which was very strange.

For the most part I just grinned and bared the pain. I thought it would just get better. When it didn’t, I called my mom who is a nurse. She suggested I go to the college clinic and see if the damage was something more than I had originally diagnosed. The clinic thought I had pneumonia and gave me some antibiotics. They said I had even had mono within the last few months, but I didn’t even feel that I had been that sick. I felt better for a couple of days but then got progressively worse. This would be my story for the next four months. Doctors, medicine, temporary relief, and then I would feel horrible again. Most of the time I’d feel worse than before the treatments.

Since I got worse, I went back to the clinic. I was tested for pleurisy, an infection in the lining of the lungs because I was coughing so hard, plus throwing up, and had a fever. I had lost my appetite. And for this foodie that is a serious sign of illness. They gave me more antibiotics and even an injection of some high dose stuff in the hip/rear.

Once again, I got better for a couple days and then got worse. They prescribed an inhaler, as I couldn’t even make it up the stairs to my dorm room without stopping several times. Mind you, just days before I had been running up those same stairs. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting better so I had to take my finals early and go home to my family doctor. He sent me to several specialists: Infectious disease, autoimmune, blood, cancer, and the list goes on. I was poked, prodded and tested for everything from Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Leukemia, and more. I felt like a lab rat — test after test — blood being drawn every day. My arms looked like I was a druggie with all the bruising and needle marks. I had CAT scans, MRIs, bone scans, spinal taps, fluid extraction from under my knee, and much more.

Looking for the Silver Lining

Everyday, I was forced to think about if I could have children, if I would be on drugs for the rest of my life and even if I would live. I was getting sicker and sicker. I lost 40 lbs when I didn’t have those pounds to lose. I was severely anemic (almost had to have a blood transfusion), was sleeping 20 plus hours in a day and was so weak I couldn’t even take a shower by myself. And I certainly couldn’t hold up the dryer to dry my hair. My family became very close during these months.

My mom had to keep a journal of my temperature, as it would spike every day. Simply going to the doctor took every ounce of my energy. During this process we realized how much the doctors really don’t know about the human body. That they are guessing based on a series of symptoms. There were many times I wasn’t sure if I would wake up in the morning. I think I got used to being sick. So much was unknown and I was scared. My parents were scared. I even talked about my final wishes and that I wanted to be cremated and my ashes scattered in the ocean.

It was a very eye-opening experience to see your own mortality at age 19. Most folks at that age are falling in love, exploring life, and looking toward a future full of possibilities. I was looking at the exact opposite: Sickness, problems, and even death.

Thankfully, I got better. I stopped taking the medications, and whether it was mind over matter, a miracle, or a virus that had simply run its course… I got better.

I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone, but I am grateful to have had it. The perspective I have gained through this life experience has made not sweating the small stuff a little easier. Oh, I have to be reminded sometimes, but I think I really value what is important. The people I love, the people who love me, being happy, taking time to play, and I laugh as much as possible now because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

Have you experienced a life-changing health issue?

Lessons Learned: I learned that life is precious. I learned who my friends were. I learned that family is everything. I learned to live for the “now.”

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