The Essence of Life

“Hello… is it me you’re looking for? Cause I wonder where you are, and I wonder what you do…”

That’s one of my favorite cheesiest-of-the-cheesy love songs. Lionel was an 80s fixture for me, for sure. Now that song will be stuck in your head all day.

“And I want to tell you so much… I love you.”

It’s been a long time, friends. I’m not sure I’ve ever gone for two months straight without penning a blog. Thanks for sticking around in the big, silent void.

There is nothing more tedious, I’m sure, than to listen to someone chronicle a medical journey, so I’ll just say this instead: It’s been a long couple of months of health and cognitive issues, the worst case scenario has finally been taken off the table, I’m down fifteen pounds (not in a healthy diet and exercise kind of way, but in a can’t-keep-anything-down kind of way), and we’re moving forward. My doctor says this journey is a “process of elimination.” Bit by bit, we’re eliminating what it isn’t so we can get closer to what it is. That sounds expensive and time-consuming to me, of course, but what I’ve learned over these past two months is that we can never take these things for granted: good health, rock solid friends, and a family loved beyond measure. Money comes and goes. So be it.

Meds have rendered me a bit fuzzy and because they’ve seemed to do more harm than good on this go-round, I’m currently weaning off of them. But I’m clear enough to know and share these things:

Medicine is both an art and a science, and as an artist, I’m beginning to more fully understand this side of the equation. We must — in this crazy, insurance-driven healthcare world — be self-advocates. It took a full decade for my beautiful Mom to be definitively diagnosed with MS. A decade is a long time of not knowing. Keep asking questions. I believe that many of us women who are used to being the caregivers often struggle with being cared for. But no one knows and understands your body like you do. If something feels wrong, something probably is wrong. Don’t wait, don’t brush it under the rug. We don’t have to stop caring for others to also care for ourselves. In fact, sometimes caring for ourselves looks exactly like caring for others. There are so many, after all, who love and depend on us.

I’m approaching 45, and the body that has served me so well is starting to complain a bit. I’ve carried excess weight for years, and I’m certain that strain is beginning to catch up. This isn’t about fat-shaming, it’s about self-care. I’ve been 50 pounds lighter than I am right now. I can attest that it’s easier to breathe, easier to run, easier to sleep, easier on my joints, easier to exist without lugging those extra 50 around. I’m not about food deprivation or denying ourselves the pleasures of life, but the old cliche proves so true… all in moderation. Eat a little less, move a little more. I’m still learning.

Never underestimate the power of love to see you through any situation. We learned it with Gus, and we’ve relearned it again 15 years later. From friends who sat through CT scans and MRIs to friends who drove seven hours straight to deliver me safely back home to those who housed and loved and tried to feed me to those who texted, called, and checked not only on me but on Chris and the kids — we have been so well-loved. I have also learned, by the gentle touch of a friend’s hands on a swimmy head, that human contact can heal in its own profound way. As the great Annie Lamott recently said, “We touch hands, and it’s Communion. The most spiritual thing you can do is touch another human.” Amen, Sister Anne. Amen.

Sometimes I feel like I’m a Doubting Thomas kind of girl — I have to see to believe and to understand. Not just see, but experience. I’ve known others who have gone through similar, painful journeys. I didn’t fully understand. I didn’t take the time to understand. Now I do. I wish I had done more for them. I wish I had reached out my hand to touch a swimmy head. If this situation has taught me anything, it’s that I can always be kinder, I can always be more empathetic, I can always give a little more.

And also, I can receive with grace and gratitude. It’s a hard lesson for me, the receiving. But it’s a gift to those who can give, who are able to give, who want to give. Thank you, givers, for that gift. I’m beginning to understand.

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15 Responses

  1. Most importantly, I hope you find answers and healing soon. I am glad you do so surrounded by such love.

    I have been thinking about self advocacy in medicine recently, too. For almost two and a half years, I have dealt with health issues largely shrugged off by medical practitioners who run a few routine tests and say they don’t see a problem.

    A couole days ago, I googled a blog (whose author wrote a book I’m reading for my health) and was blown away to find my simple question had led me to huge answers. For 2.5 years, I have grimaced through useless doctor visits … only to find answers by searching “ licorice root.” Madness. Also madness? That I never would have found it if I hadn’t searched for myself to find a cause, and after that, healing. Self advocacy is crucial.

    Rooting for you from here, with love.

    1. Deborah, thanks for sharing your story. It gives me hope and inspires me to press on. I have such a hard time feeling like I’m “being a bother” every time I go to the doctor even though I know something isn’t right. I’m so sorry it took you so long to find your answer, but I’m so glad you found it. <3

  2. Oh Katrina, thinking of you on this journey…a few things I have learned on my own journey of health and self care include: 1) mind, body and spirit are intimately connected – they send messages to each other all the time, and paying attention is key to an overall sense of well-being, and 2) the world keeps spinning even when we slow down – this can be both a bit troubling and immensely comforting at times, but in the long run, I hope you will find it comforting. Sending lots of love your way. Slow down, deep breaths, and take care of you. The world needs you. xoxo

  3. It is so good to read you again. I have missed your words. I thank you for sharing the wisdoms you have gained through this extremely difficult time. You know I have been praying (almost to the extent of annoyance). Never have I wanted someone to be okay more than I have wanted you to be okay. I love you.

  4. Such wisdom, as always. I am forever teaching women that self care is imperative, so they can continue to nurture those they love. I am hopeful you will find a definive answer (and the peace that comes with fianlly knowing) very soon, Katrina 🙂

  5. We learned about advocacy when my mom was diagnosed and being treated for cancer. Bad situation but it taught me to fight for myself. Unfortunately, I am a military spouse, so I have to move around and don’t get to develop a good relationship with my doctor. Every time I start over, I have to push the doctor to help me. It’s very frustrating. But you’re right, we know our bodies and when something is wrong.

    I hope you get some answers soon and are resting. I will pray for you.

    1. Thank you so much. Yes, the moving makes everything so much more challenging. We’ve done it twice in the past three years, and I just feel untethered as far as medical care goes. It’s tough enough to traverse the system and even harder when you feel you don’t have an advocate helping you.

  6. Katrina, I hope that medical answers come soon and your health returns quickly! Thank you for the reminder about listening to our bodies — and for asking for help. You are making a difference.

  7. I hope you feel better soon. I am still on my journey…it’s been 10 years. You NEED to be your own advocate, and YELL AND SCREAM if you have to. I have “yep… yepped” my way through more countless (useless) appointments with medical “specialists” than I care to remember. In the end you have to listen to your gut and trust your intuition. I hope you find answers and peace soon. Take care.

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