“We dream to give ourselves hope. To stop dreaming – well, that’s like saying you can never change your fate.”
– AMY TAN –
Sometimes I think that my Lyme Disease and this book are so intertwined that I wouldn’t know how to separate the two even if I could. Everything about this past year is linked to one or the other: the book is what helped me through the darkness of the disease, while this illness is what pushed me to turn a lifelong dream into something tangible.
I cried every single day when I was first diagnosed with Lyme Disease.
Every. Single. Day.
Some of the tears were those of relief at finally being able to put a name to this disease — this enemy — that had invaded my body over the course of 15+ years. Some of the tears were those of fear in knowing how long and difficult a road to recovery it would be — the herx reactions alone, that necessary evil wherein the antibiotics kill off the germ, then the die-off releases toxins that make you feel worse before you get better, would be a struggle in and of itself.
How can I get through that? I constantly asked myself. How can I possibly survive feeling worse than I already do?
But I did survive. Somehow, it got worse and somehow, I survived.
During the worst of it, I slept 18 hours a day, barely able to lift my head from the pillow long enough to glance at the clock and see that another couple of hours had blessedly passed. The pain traveled into my legs making it difficult to walk, even difficult to lay still, so that when sleep did come, it was a welcomed relief. I was unable to go to work, unable to socialize, barely able to leave my house except for doctor’s visits and stays with my parents so they could take care of me when I was unable to care for myself.
It was easy to cry, to fall into that depression, that despair. It was the source of most of those tears as I thought I was about to lose everything I’d worked so hard for. I could see it slipping through my fingers, where every tomorrow seemed questionable and what was once a bright future, so close at hand, now seemed dark and empty.
I began to wonder if I even had a future at all.
In these darkest moments of doubt, I searched for hope and found the unconditional love and devotion of my family, I found the whispers of support and cheers of encouragement from dear friends, and I found grace in a dog who has saved my life as much as my adopting him may have saved his.
These were my reasons for being, for fighting. But what would be there on the other end of this fight? What would be waiting for me on the other side of this disease? I didn’t know, and still I doubted if there would be anything left for me at all.
But it was then, on one nondescript morning, that I found my future.
I found my strength, I found my spirit, I found my dream, waiting and beckoning, giving me a reason to push through the pain and fog and fatigue and keep on with this recovery.
I wasn’t ready to leave it all behind.
Back in February and March of 2012, before the symptoms sent me into a fast decline, I had made great strides in making a lifelong dream become a reality as I began to research my options for publishing Gold in the Days of Summer — then an untitled series of short stories. I fought to keep this dream alive even as spring emerged and my health worsened. Then, I set that dream aside, forgotten in the wake of pursuing a diagnosis and beginning treatment.
Until that morning. That morning when I woke up in pain, barely able to walk, and instead of watching another movie on Netflix or reading another book, I pulled my computer onto my lap and began to write, began to plan.
I began to dream again.
I haven’t stopped since.
The original goal was to push through and publish the book in the summer of 2012, and maybe I could have continued to pursue it through this disability, this disease, but my health became more of a concern and the timing never seemed right. I trust my intuition, and intuition said to wait, heal, dream a little while longer…
Little did I know how much I needed this project to remain incomplete through the worst of last summer. Little did I know that it would be this dream that would awaken my spirit and bring me back to life again come the fall and through the winter.
Little did I know how this dream would give me a purpose, a reason to look forward to every new tomorrow.
When you hold onto and begin to pursue a dream, it means you have a future in mind. And when you’re battling for your life, fighting a disease that seems to strip you of that future, you find whatever you can in order to hold onto that promise of something better, of another tomorrow, so that it remains real, so that it stays possible.
The irony is, in feeling like I was losing everything, I gained so much more than I could ever imagine — an unrelenting strength, an awareness of self, and the courage to pursue this dream of seeing my words in print to its fullest potential, even among my darkest days, even now, among the healing.
And now, when I shed tears, they are only of gratitude.
Gratitude for tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, and the tomorrow after that…