I used to think a lot about death. I imagine I still do think about it more than most people. It is something that both comforts and terrifies me. On the hardest days, it seems like a gift. On those days, I just want to lay back and close my eyes and sigh my last breath and be transported to oblivion. A reprieve. Nothing. But on every other day, I just want to get survive until tomorrow.
I sometimes find myself passing these thoughts over each other until they have lost any sharpness and danger. What if this kills me? And hiding just under my breath, in that space where my mind hides its deepest unspoken mysteries: what if it doesn’t? What if I am never saved from this?
The fall of 2013 was a big turning point in my health. It was the first time that I was so sick that I thought I would die. Not when I got my colostomy. Not when I was having severe mast cell attacks and anaphylaxis that debilitated me for weeks before I was diagnosed. Not when I had a GI bleed that lasted for months. In the fall of 2013, for the very first time, my pain was my worst symptom, worse than the exhaustion. And when I was in bed and in so much bone pain that it hurt to stand, so much that I couldn’t go to work, I thought that this must be what it feels like to be dying.
2014 was mostly a blur punctuated with hospital stays and epipens. So, so sick. Vomiting blood and bowel obstructions and anaphylaxis. I got a PICC line and then a port. I started using IV fluids and meds. I drafted my first will and advanced directive in 2014 at the ripe age of 30. I organized my whole life around my disease. I literally wrote letters to friends and family in case I died. It was bad.
But then something happened that I did not expect: I got better. I was still pretty sick but I no longer felt like I was constantly flirting with death. I was able to travel a little with heavy support from my friends. In 2015, I had GI surgery and worked very hard on reconditioning myself. And I got even better. Like, a lot better. That lasted for over a year until last fall. And then this past spring, I recovered. I would say I am in probably the best health state than I have been since 2013. These things come in waves for me. Feeling better doesn’t always last but feeling like I’m dying doesn’t always last either.
Today, I was able to meet a mast cell friend who was in town for an appointment. Her illness and diagnosis are much more recent. Like most mast cell patients shortly after diagnosis, she is still in a really difficult spot. I told her about my own ups and downs with mast cell disease. I told her that she wouldn’t always feel this way. And I’m sure she won’t.
I wrote this post to say something that I don’t think gets said often enough in this community: That it won’t always be like this. You won’t always be like you are right now. There will be improvements and there will be setbacks. But whatever reality you are living right now will assuredly be replaced by something new. And this means that every day, you have a reason to be hopeful. Just get through the day. If you can get through it, tomorrow could be the day that you could get better.
Don’t give up. Stand up and fight.
It gets better.