Births and Rebirths

The month of May gives Kristin many things to look forward to, but it also gives her a reminder to look back to what she has been through

I love the month of May. Spring flowers, movie premieres, the nostalgia of the last weeks of school before summer—there’s just something magical about this month. You can taste summer and all the fun and relaxation that comes with it. Additionally, May is a big month of celebrations in my family. Birthdays, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, Carpe Diem day.  

This May kicked off with the bright, shiny birth of my new nephew. He was five weeks early, but he’s safe and sound at home. He’s got all ten fingers and toes and a Scandinavian Anderson nose. While my family is enjoying celebrating birthdays and Mother’s Day together in California, a time made all the richer by the presence of this new little guy, I am doing some celebrating of my own out here in Texas.  

First up, celebrating nine years of loving and laughing with my boyfriend. Next up, Carpe Diem day.  

It was three years ago this month that my chronic illness, scleroderma, suddenly became acute. Raynaud’s ulcers unleashed their fury and became gangrenous on two of my fingers, thereby nearly taking my entire left hand in the process. There were many doctors who wanted to amputate my hand or who thought surgery was necessary. But there was one, who stood alone, and encouraged me to believe in my body’s power to heal. I was not only fighting for my hand, but fighting for my life, and I focused with laser like precision on saving those fingers.  

 

Weeks of hyperbaric oxygen therapy and infusions of drugs, combined with my own superhero mantra “if you save her fingers, she can save the world” helped me realize my goal. I fought to save my black and purple fingers that burned like fire and looked like charcoal and denied the surgeons, with their lust for the knife, my left hand. I like to say that I regenerated my fingers and the shock of my doctor’s faces when I showed them two full fledged fleshy finger tips with finger nails—albeit much shorter than they were three months before—is seared in my memory.

Rebirth.  

It was at that time that I read Lance Armstrong’s book “It’s Not About the Bike” and learned that he celebrates a Carpe Diem day each year in honor of his triumph over cancer. I knew that once I recovered from my trauma, a Carpe Diem day would be in order. 

 

  • Kristin 2007
  • Kristin's hair, June 2007

How rare it is that we get the opportunity to stare death in the eye, make a U-turn in life, or grasp life by the shoulders and climb back on for whatever ride we have left. Just think of the power you hold in your hands—the strength you muster each day to battle your chronic pain with a smile, to recover from periods of acute illness, to take care of your family while you’re sick.  

 

My nephew’s birth wasn’t easy. Rebirth isn’t easy. In year 1 of acute illness recovery, I regenerated my fingers and returned to work full time with a bald head. In year 2, I regenerated my hair and healed my lupus scars. In year 3, I kicked butt at work. And I’m just getting started. While all of the changes may not yet be evident to the outside world, illness gives you an opportunity and a major transformation is underway. And I’m excited.  

Carpe diem, my friends.  

P.S. The New York Times ran a must-read article on Raynaud’s Phenomenon and ulcers this week. Take a look HERE!

 

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