You’ve probably heard the saying “give people their roses while they are alive to smell them”, right? If not, you’ve likely heard some version of that saying. Regardless of how exactly you’ve heard it worded, the gist is the same…show the people in your life that you appreciate them while they’re alive. My Aunt Sandy used to say this to me all the time. As I type, I can hear her sweet voice in my ear saying “baby, make sure you give people their roses while they are alive to smell them…that’s when I want mine.” One of the major reasons I was able to make peace with her sudden death, was because I knew in my heart that I showed her how much she meant to me while she was on this earth.
So, I gotta ask. Have you ever delivered roses? No? Ok, what about symbolic roses? Personally, I’ve never given real roses to anyone. I’m not a plant or flower person. Candidly, I’m not a flower, plant, grass, tree, mulch, or wood kind of person. I actually loathe all things outdoors or nature, particularly plants. I know, I know…all plants and trees serve a purpose and yada, yada, yada. But, it really is in everyone’s best interest that I stay away from all things nature. See, I LITERALLY have a black thumb. I am like the black widow of botany. If there is a plant “impossible to kill”, I will STILL manage to kill it. I was once told that it is virtually impossible to kill an Ivy. Well, guess what. Yep, I killed an Ivy. Friends, I actually took death up a notch for my Ivy. My Ivy turned to dust chips in the pot (I think that’s what it’s called) that it came in. FYI, while the Ivy likes sunshine, it doesn’t care for sunshine near a vent blaring heat at around 75 degrees. But hey, you live and learn….it was Ivy or me, and I will NOT be cold for ANYONE!
Refusing to accept defeat, I chalked Ivy’s death up to an honest mistake and tried other plants. I tried a ficus, cactus, and a few other ones…none survived. My ficus didn’t last 2 weeks, and my cactus, my longest surviving plant, made it a month. Who knew it was possible to over water a cactus? Seriously…who knows that? It seemed to me that a cactus would be grateful for all the water it could get. Heck, I rescued it from death by desert for heaven’s sake! Plants are so temperamental and ungrateful, but I digress.
Given my black thumb, I typically run in the opposite direction of all things nature. I don’t go to the park “just because” or for a casual stroll. I don’t voluntarily eat outside, or open the windows in my house. Oh, and I will NEVER agree to anything involving grass. So, no one in my life will ever be able to say that they have ever received real roses from me. But, despite my disdain for all things nature/outdoors, I have given symbolic roses. I routinely thank the people in my life for their role or give gifts to show my appreciation. It is very important to me for those around me to understand just how much I appreciate them, particularly my support system.
Recently I’ve had to rely on my support system more than ever before. My recent hospitalization was one of the hardest hospitalizations I have experienced in the 30+ years I have battled with chronic illness and pain. I went into this flare physically and emotionally exhausted from the previous flare in August. So, I had very little energy or patience for the battles I encountered during this hospitalization. Fortunately, my support team was on their A game and completely tuned in.
Saturday October 3, started out an amazing day. I woke up surprised at how well I felt, and the slight increased energy. Now, before I continue, please understand that I am not saying I woke up pain free feeling amazing. No, I simply woke up at a 8.5 out of 10 on the pain scale, rather than my usual 10. So, I decided to use this day of slightly reduced pain to accomplish a few things I had been unable to do. Well friends, before I could execute my plan, my body let me know that it had its own plan. I started to feel fatigued and light headed around noon. I didn’t think too much of the sudden onset of fatigue, but decided it was a good time to put the girls to bed for a nap and take one myself.
As I entered the master bedroom, I suddenly felt the urge to use the bathroom. As I hurried to the master bathroom, the urge to use the bathroom became stronger, and I wondered if I would make it to the toilet. I quickly pulled down my pants, and rushed towards the toilet. Before I could get comfortable on the toilet seat, I heard a splash from the water in the toilet bowl. Immediately my heart sank down into my stomach, because the splash sounded so familiar. Millions of thoughts ran through my mind, but one thought in particular seemed adamant about intruding and being recognized over the other thoughts. I kept thinking “that sounded like what happened last time”. Afraid to look in the toilet, I decided to force myself to think about other things. I thought “ok, so, for dinner I should make steaks after my nap. I wonder what time the church meeting will be over today. Oh man, that splash sounded just like the one in August”. Fully aware at this point that one thought still demanded to be recognized, I again tried to force myself to think of other things. I thought “hubs and I should watch a movie tonight if I can take a nap. Humm, what should I wear to church tomorrow? I wonder what my choir will sing tomorrow. JESUS, that splash sounded JUST like the one in August”. My attempts to ignore that awful splash were futile. I knew I had to look, and deep down I knew exactly what I would find.
I scooted back on the toilet seat, and forced myself to look at the water. Blood. Bright red blood like I expected. Immediately my heart left my stomach and joined the contents in the toilet as I mumbled to myself “I was feeling so good. No, no, that’s not what I think. My eyes are tired. I didn’t see blood”. Refusing to accept what I had just seen, I wiped myself and inspected the tissue. Blood again. Bright red blood and clots. As I inspected the tissue, but refused to accept what I saw, tears slowly rolled down my face. I was completely unaware that I had allowed myself to start crying, until a teardrop landed on my hand as it laid on my knee while I sat frozen on the toilet. I quickly wiped my tears and sternly and loudly said to myself “STOP CRYING RIGHT NOW. YOU FEEL FINE! YOU ARE FINE!” Honestly, fine-ish. For the first time in a long time, my stomach was noticeably absent of pain…but my joint pain was omnipresent. Dazed, I slowly stood up, flushed the toilet, and sheepishly said to myself “ok, that’s not real, I feel fine”. Somewhat collected at this point, I washed my hands and crawled into bed for a nap.
Well friends, it goes without saying that I was not fine. For all you people that think auto-immune diseases like Crohn’s are all in our heads and can be cured or managed by “positive thoughts”…keep reading my words and CHOKE. Actually, keep reading my words and stuff yours…. Positive thinking did nothing more than delay my acceptance of a reality that was unfolding right in front of me…whether I wanted it to or not. I woke up from my nap to my husband laying next to me rubbing my back whispering “hey, hey, it’s ok”. Confused and still groggy, I quietly replied “I’m bleeding and….” Before I could finish, my husband quietly interrupted “I know. You’ve been crying out in pain in your sleep”. Before his final word could completely roll off his lips, I was abruptly hit by sharp stabbing pain in my right side more intense than contractions. The pain hit me so hard and fast that it took my breath away, and I immediately stopped allowing myself to inhale or exhale. I’m not sure what it is, but whenever I am in intense pain, I have a a tendency to hold my breath as if that makes it better…it doesn’t. In fact, it only adds a knot on your head from passing out to accompany the rest of your ailments…but I digress.
Completely caught off guard by the surprise intense pain, I mumbled “I need to stand up, I need to just stand up”. I attempted to crawl out of bed to see if I could walk, and completely fell to the floor. As I sat on the cold hardwood floor, reality hit me like a brick to the face and the room started to spin. Although my husband was still in the room, in fact he was no more than 10 feet away, he sounded miles away when he said “let me help you up, then I’ll pack your bag”. My husband quickly scooped me off the floor and placed me on the bed. As he picked me up, I caught a quick glance at his eyes. When our eyes met, I think we both saw the fear and concern in each other’s eyes, so we quickly looked away. While no words were spoken, we both understood…these sudden hospitalizations were becoming too much. When I looked at my husband’s eyes, I saw sadness, frustration, and exhaustion, where I used to see hope. I imagine in my eyes, he saw anger, exhaustion, and defeat where there used to be strength, defiance, and determination.
The ride to the hospital was filled with lots of silence and tears. I tried to pass the time by sending brave text messages to my friends. I text things like “going in for another check-in, no worries I am still hanging in there”. My friend E quickly saw the devastation behind my texts and sprung into action. She was a constant presence during this hospitalizaiton. She talked to me the late nights and early mornings when I couldn’t sleep. She also didn’t laugh when I fell off the toilet while talking to her because the pain meds made me woozy.
In addition to E, my friend and Crohn’s mentor D brought food up to the hospital and checked on my hubs and kiddos the 6 days I was away. My sister, who battles with Ulcerative Colitis herself, called me 30 times a day to make me laugh and boost my spirits. My friend C and newly appointed little sister, sat with me for hours over the course of several days just to distract me, and take notes about what the doctors said to ensure I remembered. She also pushed back on things I was too tired to fight. My mom stayed overnight with me several days to allow me to rest comfortably knowing I wasn’t alone. My dad came up to the hospiital each day and prayed for me each night. My father in law came up to accompany me and encourage me through 2 colonoscopies…yes people 2. My friend M came up to do my hair…honey I was looking like the love child of James Brown and Jack Nicholason…yeah, that bad people. Then, each of you. You continued reading my thoughts and adventures…and gave encouraging words. You gave 2-3 minutes of your time…but boosted my spirits in the process. Lastly, my husband. I thank him last but he DEFINITELY is not least. This man came to see me every day (I actually had to make him go home), kept our household running (which is no minor task), put two very scared little girls at ease and continued their routine, but MOST importantly, prayed for and with me.
It is impossible to call out everyone, but you all know what you did and I appreciate it. I told you individually, but wanted to say it publicly. THANK YOU! Friends, make sure you are delivering roses while the people around you are alive to smell them.