Yesterday I went to Safeway (the same Safeway I always go to) and went to checkout (with the same cashier I always go to). She's sweet to my kids and always very interested in what we're up to. After all, she saw me shopping when I was pregnant and craving noodles, lemonade and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. She saw me with a newborn buying diapers, cabbage (ladies, you know what I'm talking about) and ready made spaghetti sauce. For months, she watched me hobble around and struggle to lift a gallon of milk out of my cart. She saw my shopping list go from chicken, meat and veggies to tofu, veggies and well, more veggies. She sees me with my bag of meds from the pharmacy. She watches my daughters grow and take up more space in my shopping cart. Really, she sees my face more than most of my friends or family. So yesterday, she may (or may not) have been surprised when she cheerfully asked "How are you?" and instead of the automatic "Great! How are you?" I stared blankly, as though I didn't know how to answer. And then. Then I laughed. It wasn't one of those ha, ha, ha something is funny kind of laughs. It was more of an ironic, oh my gosh, what the heck is going on, excuse me while I lose it, kind of laugh. I could tell she didn't know what to say but she nodded her head like she knew what I meant (after all, she has watched my life evolve over the last year). I could feel my face get hot, my throat grow a lump and the tears start to form, but I was definitely not about to lose it - in Safeway - again. So I sucked it all up, cleared my throat, smiled and said, "I'm great. How are you?" We talked about how beautiful the blueberries were and how happy we were that the sun was finally out. When I paid the bill and my cart was loaded she gave me one last look, as though to say, "It's okay, you can lose it in my line anytime" and I was off.
As you can imagine, I was a little embarrassed as I drove home and thought about what just happened. Why then? Why there? Why in front of her? Why?
And then the floodgates flew open.
And I asked the question I never once asked for the last 9 months, "WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?"
I know it's a stupid question to ask. I mean, it's a loaded question, really. But I needed to ask, even if there's no answer, because this whole thing just doesn't make sense.
My quasi-meltdown didn't completely come out of the blue. For the last week I've had pain in my left hand. It sort of feels like carpal tunnel on steroids (which makes sense since I'm on steroids). I didn't think much of it at first but after about the fifth day it was getting hard to grip things and the pain was waking me up at night.
I consulted Dr. Google and apparently it is (or can be) related to AS. Come on AS, you're supposed to only affect my spine and the joints and ligaments that attach to it, leave my hands alone. Nope, lots of AS patients suffer pain and ultimately bone fusion in their hands and feet. Seriously, cut a girl a break. If my hand fuses together I'm going to be pissed. Well, I see my real doctor next week so I'll talk to him more about it, but it was just another reminder that I'm dealing with an actual disease.
Anyway, I guess that's why my Safeway friend's innocent "How are you?" sort of put me over the edge. I'm not great. And I don't know what to say other than 2 years ago I was able to strike a pretty impressive yoga pose and now, well, now I get a gold star at the doctor's office if I can bend over and touch my toes! That's just ridiculous. I used to surf, run, hike - I even played football. I was the fricken quarterback for goodness sake. It just doesn't make sense.
But really, it never makes sense when someone gets sick. There are some questions that are worth asking because the answers just might save your life. And then there are other questions that just drive you into a dead-end where there's nothing but a pity party going on. I think it's okay to go there sometimes, I just can't stay there. For now, I'm trying to figure out the right questions to ask, the right roads to explore, the right prayers to pray. But I'm still thankful, so very thankful, because at the end of the day, I'm here - with my incredible family, with a hopeful future and with people that let me laugh, cry and lose it, but still love me anyway.
How are you?