04 Mar What Is
This isn’t about him. This isn’t about what was taken from me. This isn’t about my limitations or mourning. This is about what I was given. This is about empowerment.
This is about what is.
I had Multiple Sclerosis long before I was officially diagnosed. For an entire year, I experienced embarrassing and uncontrollable falls down stairs followed by spasms, and I still had no answers. After my diagnosis, just shy of my 30th birthday, I began giving myself weekly injections of Avonex.
Though the nurses from the company were amazing and always accessible, the entire process was invasive. I would return home to big ass, bright red coolers delivered to my front porch. I was covered in quarter- sized black bruises on my thighs. I anticipated abusive flu symptoms following each injection for 2-3 days. My entire routine was shifted, and as a result, I stopped making plans to be social because I could not predict the next time I would drop a glass, fall down stairs, or simply feel like shit.
Because my physical symptoms were so public, I decided to process privately. Before writing. Before therapy. Before crying a single tear. Every Wednesday, I jealously guarded my privacy, locking myself in the bathroom, and turning music on to drown out pity. I would repeat my process as my nurses advised, awaiting the violent click of the auto-injector, which began to make my injection sites swell and bleed for prolonged periods of time.
The solace I sought was interrupted by the sound of speedy toddler feet at the bathroom door.
“Mommy. Open the door!”
I would hurry to finish the shot, and bandage up, afraid of scaring my two-year-old. She was relentless in her pursuit of my personal space. I would then cook dinner, prepare my baby for bed, and go to bed, only to wake up to my body’s attempt to rebel against chills and fever for the next three days. I taught my students through this process. I only took sick days when I had appointments or if Brooke was sick. I suffered internally and silently.
As Brooke’s third birthday approached, on a random Wednesday, I prepared my injection. Brooke, in attempts to remind me of her co-ownership of my personal space, begged me to open the door. I thought to myself, If this disease is something I will deal with for a lifetime, I have to find a way to explain it to my child.
I opened the door, not having plunged the needle into my thigh muscle, worried that she would be upset. I explained to her that the medicine was for her mommy’s legs.
“Does it hurt, Mommy?” she asked.
“Let me help,” she requested. And in that moment, she placed her hand, toddler plump, on my injection thigh. I proceeded to inject myself, and she watched the entire time. As I bled, she took a tissue and dabbed at the growing red.
“There, I fixed it,” and she walked away, empowered. She bandaged my leg that entire year.
I cried for a solid 5 minutes. All of the needles, all of the blood. Returning home to someone who counted the days that passed since I went to the gym despite my inability to stand, my perpetual doubting of myself, the constant wondering how long I could/should/would teach… it all came together.
It then became clear to me that this wasn’t about my weakness; it was about the strength it took to allow myself to be vulnerable to my baby. It wasn’t about who I no longer heard from when I felt most alone; it was about who never left.
Most importantly, it IS about the 6-year-old who never lets a day pass without asking how her mother is feeling, and for that, I am eternally grateful.