NEVER GIVE UP: WOMAN’S FIGHT TO LIVE TAKES FLIGHT
There I was: lying in a hospital bed, barely coherent, trying to maintain consciousness in between seizures long enough to understand what my doctor was saying.
“It’s time for hospice.”
Even in my barely conscious state, I was shocked to my core. I knew things were bad. My weight was down to an unimaginably low number and my blood pressure and heart rate were barely discernible. I had more than thirty seizures over a two-day span, and had surprised even my doctor by staying alive as long as I had. I never truly believed this would be my end, though. I then reached out to my previous doctor in Denver, who told me in no way was I to accept that this was it. She arranged a medical flight by Angel MedFlight, and as soon as I was stable, I was transported to the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders at Denver Health.
Once there, at a center for the most medically severe anorexia patients in the world (my 6th time there), my doctor and I decided that it was indeed time to say goodbye and go on hospice healthcare. If you had asked me then, I would have told you truthfully that I was ready to accept death. I was thinking about how I would spend the last days of my life: places I wanted to visit and goodbyes I wanted to say. I began setting up end-of-life care plans for when I was too weak to care for myself. I spent days sobbing over my imminent demise and even started writing farewell letters to my loved ones. I thought about people I wanted to include in my will and how to word my final goodbyes.
You see, I have a potentially terminal illness, one that has almost stolen my life several times to date – Anorexia Nervosa. It has left me feeling hopeless and helpless. I waited for the magic treatment to come along that would cure me. I asked, “why me?” and lamented over opportunities stolen from me because of this disease: school, relationships, having children, and simply enjoying life. I thought I had exhausted every option for living and death was the only way out.
After several exhausting days, though, I realized something: it didn¹t have to be this way. I didn¹t have to cause the same pain that I¹ve felt to my friends and family. I didn’t have to accept death from my illness. Until I take my last breath there is an opportunity for change. I decided to stop asking “why” and start asking “how” instead.
How can I live with this disease? How can I do the best I possibly can, knowing every day will be hard while all the while continuing to push forward? How can I sit with my misery until it dissipates instead of starving myself into the grave?
I cried because I have too much to do left in this life to leave it so early. I have a career to be had and school to be finished. I have books to read and worlds to explore. I have great big bear hugs to give to my nephew. I have tears to cry and laughs to bellow, love to give and a niece to see grow up. I have both joy and devastation, solace and companionship, failures and successes to experience.
It still seems overwhelming. I think of being twice the weight I was and I want to give up, accepting my fate of dying from this disease. I have realized, though, that I don¹t need to know how I am going to make it through tomorrow; I only need to know how I am going to make it through this day, this hour, this minute. If I can continue to set aside how I feel in the moment in order for my lifelong values to be honored, then maybe one day it won’t matter so much to me. Maybe one day I will live in peace, enjoying the ups and downs that life has to offer. After all, it is the depths of despair that carve out the capacity for joy.
After I decided to give life another shot, my doctor arranged for me to go to treatment on a full scholarship, and though this was my ninth time attempting such treatment, something was different this time. I still hated it. I still fought it. I screamed and cried and begged to be let go. But my doctor refused to give up on me. And I refused to give up on myself. For six long months, I battled my disease with every bite that I took and pound that I gained.
Today, I am home and weight-restored. My health has bounced back and I am enjoying life in a way that I never knew was possible. I have beautiful friends, a family that I love, a wonderful church, I am going back to school, and I am leading an organization that I am passionate about. For so long I believed it was a burden to be alive; now I know the truth – it’s a blessing.