My wedding was scheduled for Tuesday, May 12th of this year. Why was it on a Tuesday? It somehow seemed to fulfill my need for different and original. On Wednesday, May 6th, only six days prior to my big day, I woke up with a pain in my neck. I didn’t give it much thought. I figured I had slept in a bad position or that it was time for a new pillow. I had diagnosed it as wry neck—no big deal.
That afternoon Jacqui and I planned to play hooky. For weeks we had decided to go shopping to buy me a few new outfits for my honeymoon. After trying on what felt like a million dresses, shirts, and skirts, my neck felt stiffer. By 6 p.m. I couldn’t turn my head. It must be all that movement, I thought to myself. Maybe I twisted it somehow and made it worse. After a good night’s sleep I’ll feel better.
As the evening passed, I felt something funny happening to my body. My fingers started to stiffen and hurt, then my wrists, my elbows, my knees, and my ankles. I felt like I was being attacked by some strange force and it was invading more and more parts of my body.
Leaving Allan at home to take care of our five children, I took myself to the hospital to find a waiting line for the waiting line. With the threat of swine flu infesting the hallways, the doctors, the nurses and even the police officers were gloved and masked to the nines. After three hours, they let me know it would be another seven hours at least before seeing a doctor. I decided to go back home. Maybe tomorrow would be a better day.
Thursday was worse. My body was not only stiff, I was in excruciating pain. Every slight movement felt like a climb up Mount Everest. The pain was insane; I just couldn’t figure out how to get any relief. My wedding was five days away and I was in bed without a clue about what it was that was seizing my body. My family doctor took blood tests, and all I could do was wait for the results. Twenty-four hours.
The following day, the results of the blood test found nothing. They tested for everything, including Lyme’s disease, West Nile Virus, and Malaria. Nothing. My doctor gave me strong anti-inflammatory medication and sent me home to rest. That afternoon, the pain escalated. It was unbearable. I could not move my legs even a quarter of an inch without assistance. I felt like I was falling into a state of paralysis. How was I going to get married in only four days? Was this my body’s way of telling me I had cold feet? I didn’t feel nervous. In fact, I was determined to be married. They would have to push me down the aisle in a wheelchair, in my pajamas, if necessary; I wasn’t going to miss this. I knew I was supposed to be learning a lesson or receiving a gift of some kind as a result of this experience, but with the pain reaching the peaks that it did, I just couldn’t see it. With tears streaming down my face, I begged for an ambulance to take me to the hospital. I simply could no longer manage at home.
After conducting more tests, the doctor from the emergency department made a proclamation. “You have a virus. It’s not Swine Flu, it’s some other flu and you will be better in three to four days.” He sent me home with permission to take two extra-strength Advil tablets every four hours and a prescription for something far stronger if I needed it. That night was the worst yet. Every breath I took triggered a stabbing pain in my back, I had to lie as still as a board, controlling my breathing, for fear of triggering the pain. Three to four days? I don’t think so.
Miraculously, the next morning I woke up and found that I was able to walk ever so slightly. I was ecstatic! I stood in front of the mirror, sliding my feet from side to side and shouted “Look at me! Look at me! I can dance!” Although my body was only perhaps 25 percent better, my mood shot up by about 25000 percent. With every passing day, I healed a little more, until, with only mild stiffness in my arms and shoulders, I walked down the aisle … in heels! A few days later I left for my two week honeymoon in the Mediterranean.
So what was that about? Where did it come from and why did it leave so relatively quickly? What was the message, the lesson, the gift I was supposed to receive? Here is my guess: I can walk. I can run. I can move. I can breathe without pain. So can most of you, but I’ll bet you haven’t noticed in a while. That’s a pretty good gift; waking up to the feeling of gratitude for the most basic things in life, the things so many of us take for granted. With that gift, I made a pledge to be kind to my body, to take care of it, and to take more time to notice how healthy I really already am. Will you join me, and make a pledge for yourself too?