Tag Archives: illness


Surgery has become an ordinary thing in modern times, especially the surgery my son had this week, but there’s brutality lurking behind the banal :

I handed him over to be cut. I gave him up, for a short time, to doctors and nurses, and he suffered. Continues to suffer. We as parents calculate the odds, percentages swirling, chance of benefit, risk ratios, but it doesn’t really matter, because for us caregivers, reality bleeds and blunts to black and white. Surgery will either help, or it won’t. There will be complications, or not.

None of us can escape pain in life, yet the insistent pulse of motherhood drums into our bodies and brains to try, try, try to shelter our children from it, or at least fend it off as long as possible. These instincts run deep. What miracle is this that allows a relaxing of our clutching, clawed fists? That gives us strength to our head high while we hand over our kids, hands slightly tremulous? We inform in solemn whispers that they will open their bodies to medicine, we plead for the doctors to injure them so that our babies may be well, to inflict pain so our kids may prosper. Even agnostics like myself feel a strange faith in these moments, one that helps us kiss and sigh and let go.

For my son, surgery was a success. He continues to heal but he is no longer on oxygen. Proof of benefit, the ends justifying the means, or so it seems.

I try to exhale.

say yes

I have a friend who survived a serious illness when she was 19.  The kind of illness that kills more often than it is cured. The odds may not have been in her favor, but she fought her way through. Through some combination of fate, medical technology and will to survive, she made it.

She is now in her 30’s, and her life is so full it nearly bursts at the seams. She is an oncology nurse.  She is a dancer.  She makes music with her cello and her drums.  She travels.  She teaches. She recently finished her masters degree. Her life is exciting and dynamic, and she is a far cry from the depressed, sick teenager confined to a hospital bed that she once was.

Her story could have ended 15 years ago in upstate New York, but instead she was given a second chance.  What she has done with that second chance was say yes.  Yes yes yes!  She follows her dreams.  She adventures.  She could be angry about what she lost (her fertility, her sense of immortality, etc.) but she turned her life into a creature of greater meaning and purpose.  I don’t know if it was a conscious choice or a subconscious desire to make her life into something wonderful, but that’s what she did. This is one beautiful and inspiring individual.

She and I are a bit alike in that we have many interests and get excited about a rainbow of things on this earth.  But unlike her, I limit myself.  I say no out of fear, or out of habit.  So I’m very grateful to know her, and to have her teach me to say yes a little more often.  Just this week, she encouraged me to say yes to going to a concert on a worknight.  Even though I was tired the next day at work.  Even though the tickets were a little expensive.  It was so worth it.

If I’ve learned anything in adulthood, its that you have many choices, and you can’t take every path.  Even my friend must say no sometimes.  But she helps me see the places that I can say yes, to help me rethink what I believe is impractical or impossible.

There is a dark side to everything.  Taking every opportunity will only leave you depleted and exhausted.  Sometimes saying no is the best choice. But on the other hand, sometimes you just have to say yes.


image courtesy of http://tucsoncitizen.com