It’s the last day of 2012. It was such a BIG year for me. So big that I am not sure whether I should jump and giggle, shed some tears or take a deep breath and hope life will slow down. Except I don’t want it to slow down.
2012. 1/1/12 - I woke up in my best friend Sarah’s house. Full of hope and dreams. Full of giddy energy. Full of ideas. Full of I can do’s for the upcoming 12 months. I stood tall, with my head up and shoulders back. My chin raised and a sneaky smile on my lips. I had plans. No resolutions. Just plans to make 2012 unforgettable and on man it was!
This year I felt like a contestant on ‘Wipe Out’. I was running on a slippery track with huge rubbery fists coming at me from each side. Fist punch, calm path, fist punch, calm path...
Calm path - my parents in law sold their house in Rochester, NY and moved in with us for a couple of month until they bought a house in our neighborhood. We love having them so close. I think I even got used to dad’s grouchy ways and just make sure I serve him his favorite beer every time he comes over.
Fist punch - in the end of January I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease. I was so glad to know why I wasn’t feeling good that I stayed oblivious to the impact the disease was going to have on my life. I started my meds. My hands stopped shaking. My eyes bulged out. The diagnosis came - ‘we expect you to lose your sight in the next 18 months’. Ohhhhh hello? That was not right. That was something I was not going to listen to. I found an amazing ophthalmologist that specializes in Grave’s and started a steroid treatment.
Fist punch - (thankfully they don’t always come in 3). My parents were denied tourists visas to come to our wedding. Ohhhhhh hello? Seriously American Government? I have a Green Card, I’m paying taxes, I want my parents here. There was nothing I could do.
Calm path - the Sun was bright in May. My path was bright in May. I became a citizen of the United States of America! After 10 years of quietly dreaming about receiving the certificate I was standing in a small garden house in Charleston, SC reciting Pledge of Allegiance. I was so proud. I was crying. I’m still crying even writing about it. A citizen!
Fist punch - the last attempt to bring my parents to the wedding failed. Mr. President didn’t sign the bill to waive visas for Polish tourists to visit US. Ohhhh hello?? I’m a citizen now why can’t they visit!
Calm path - 7/7/12 - I’ll cherish the memory of that day my whole life! On that day I married the most amazing man. My best friend, my encourager, the sweetest introvert I’ve ever met. The day was magical, enchanted.
Calm path - we flew to Poland for out honeymoon in August. First Krakow - the city I adore. Full of history, culture, colorful people. City I would live in if I ever moved back to Poland. City James fell in love with, where he had his first Polish beer, his first Polish meal, where he saw his first castle. We spent 2 weeks with my family in a small town called Marynin where I grew up. I was so afraid to see them after 10 years. So worried I wouldn’t fit, they wouldn’t love me the same way, I wouldn’t recognize them. I was worried that I was too sick to enjoy them. I was so wrong. My family was amazing. They held us both in their arms for 2 weeks and showered us with unconditional love. James fell in love with them. They fell in love with James. I felt blessed.
Fist punch - September came and with it sad diagnosis. The steroids weren’t working any longer. The doctor had a few ideas for treatments. I agreed to consider.
Calm path - I took an online course called Flying Lessons. I don’t know what I expected. I wanted the world to see my art, I hoped the Flying Lessons would give me a confidence to show it. I learned a lot. But most of all I became a part of a community of incredible women that comfort, encourage, and teach one another. I still hide my art but the class gave me wings, and the women I met are building up my courage.
Fist punch - I fell apart. Grave’s took it all from me. I wake up in pain scared to get up not knowing what my body will do. Will I be able to stand on my own or will James have to help me, will I get sick? With so many questions: why is it attacking my nervous system, why can’t I feel my left hand, will I ever stop gaining weight, will I see if I open my eyes? Thanksgiving weekend came and with it a realization that the person I used to call myself isn’t there any more. Monika I knew my whole life was resting in the body that was fighting itself. I cried. I screamed. I asked James what was wrong with me? What happened to my energy, willingness to do and see things. Why was I hiding from my own friends. James - my alway calm husband screamed back - You have Grave’s Disease. I don’t know what was worse him raising his voice in act of desperation and hurt or me finally realizing I needed to meet current myself. I scheduled an appointment with a therapist on Monday after Thanksgiving and asked her to teach me how to cope and grief. She promised I will smile again but I knew I had a long road ahead of me.
Calm path - I woke up today with a fever. The antibodies are high, fighting something beneath my skin. I laid in bed for a while trying to feel everything that was happening in my body. Things I’ve never felt before. Pains I though only older people dealt with. I touched my chubby chicks and laughed. I though of the girl that stood so confident and tall 365 days ago. Would she have her chin up if she knew what was going to happen to her in that very short year? Would she complain about the shirt that didn’t fit on the New Years Eve if she knew she was going to gain 75 pounds? Would she be so giddy if she knew the Grave’s Rage was going to soon take over her thoughts and feelings? Would she get annoyed with her 5” heels if she knew she was going to need help tying her sneakers only a few month into the year? I felt a smile sneaking on my lips while thinking of that girl. She wouldn’t have any different thoughts even knowing what was about to come. She was strong and courageous. I laid still admiring that girl. Thinking of everything she went through in her life and how she handled it all. Always with her chin up, smile on her face, glass 3/4 full. I got a bit ashamed. What happened to that girl? When did she become a deflated balloon? I tried to look to the side but there was only a darkness. I had to move. Was I ready to move? I didn’t go through the check list yet. Would it hurt to move? The other girl would just move, ignore the pain. I turned to my right. I could see my sweet husband sleeping. It was 3:30 in the morning and he looked so peaceful. I noticed things that I didn’t notice in the past 12 months. He’s wrinkle on the forehead got a touch deeper. Is he that worried about me? The wrinkles around his eyes are a little more permanent. Are they getting that way because he’s teasing me so much trying to take my thoughts off of Grave’s? He’s strong hand was laying on a pillow and his wedding ring was shining. It’s the hand that always reaches out for me when he wants to touch my face or move the hair behind my ear. Same hand that helps me get up when my body fails. I felt warm tears going down my face. That girl last year had no worries. If I could talk to her today she would have told me that I missed the biggest reason why she stood so tall. She was loved. And she was so sure and confident of the love of her now husband. I moved a bit and James reached for me. He whispered ‘Are you ok babes?’. I shook my head unable to talk through the choking tears. I am OK. Tomorrow I will wake up and stand up with my shoulders back, smile on my face. I will be proud again. My courage and strength are within me. They may be hidden and maybe it will take me a while to find them and bring them out to the surface but tomorrow on the first day of 2013 I will believe that I can once again ‘do it all’. I will believe that my art is there to share with others. I will believe that as much as the doctors ‘know their stuff’ I will not go blind, I will learn to deal with the Grave’s Rage and I will find a holistic way to heal my body. I will reach out to others that lost their strength. I’ll teach them to stand strong. I will pray. I spent the whole year wrestling with God, praying that He will make me healthy, not truly believing in His plan for me. I will pray that He will forgive my doubts. I will promise myself to take a better care of myself. And I will do things I never had guts to do... All because I am strong, courageous and full of love.