Welcome to the second episode of Shaina’s Stories before we dive in here. I want to give you a heads up that these stories are not in any chronological order. I don’t know how these stories are really going to manifest. I’m trusting this process and I believe that they’ll unfold the way that they were supposed to. My hope is that these stories will have some meaning for those tuning in, in some way shape or form. So let me dive right into this first story.
This first story might sound like it’s chronological because it kind of starts at the beginning, but really it was intuitively where I felt I needed to go with this. So, the summer of 1995 was a pretty rough one. I was almost eight years old, and over the course of one month two things happened to me that changed the course of my life. The first was the death of my maternal Grandmother. I was seven and about a month away from my eighth birthday, so I didn’t really understand what was going on after she died. However, my internal system did, and it frequently dangled the experience in my face throughout my childhood, and sometimes even to this day. The second thing was me being diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.
So, let me recap for you. I’m seven, almost eight, and in the span of a month I lost my grandmother (the only one I really knew) and I was diagnosed with a life threatening illness.
My 2nd Story
I’m not going to start today’s story with my grandmother because I truly believe that story will unfold as we go through my stories. Today, I want to start with the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) diagnosis. I don’t remember much about that frightful day in July, expect the following things:
- Going to Mcdonalds with my mom
- My doctor handing me pills and telling me that you will need to take these every time you eat in order to gain weight
Now to an eight-year-old girl saying you’re going to gain weight by taking these pills isn’t exactly a good selling point. I had no interest in taking pills or gaining weight.
One Day Changed Everything
Essentially within one day I went from being a typical eight-year-old or seven-year-old to being one that had a serious health issue. I didn’t really understand how life altering the diagnosis was at that moment, mainly because I didn’t feel sick. I had just gotten home from sleep away camp and living a pretty typical life. However, looking back the diagnosis was a pretty big deal.
I would soon learn exactly what that diagnosis meant. I went home and all of a sudden I had to take on all of these things that I didn’t have to hours earlier. It really is amazing how one day can change everything. The whole thing was traumatizing to say the least. I woke up one morning not knowing that what’s going to happen that day would be life-altering. I could no longer just have sleepovers with friends without having to think about about my treatment. I couldn’t eat a meal without pills otherwise I was going to be super sick. Another big thing for me was that I couldn’t just go straight to bed at night. That affects me even to this day. Sometimes I just want to sleep. I don’t want to have to think about my treatment. I don’t want to have to think about all the pills that I have to take. I just want to go straight into bed and live a “normal” life.
I’m Not Alone
I think what I experienced happens to people every day. You really don’t know what tomorrow will bring. When you experience something life changing, there is grief there, as you wonder why this thing is happening to you. For me specifically, I wasn’t born knowing I had CF. Until that last month of my seventh year I was living that normal life, and so I know what it is like to be typical. Then all of a sudden I wasn’t and that was a horrible feeling. I had to grieve the life I once had, and I am still working through that grief. In my life, which I’m sure you’ll notice as we go forward in all of my stories, is that I have a great deal of anger, which I am in the process of working through in my own work.
I think somehow you have to learn to move forward. I think that’s what people think of as strength, but what other option is there? Am I just going to sit there and wallow and fester in my anger? I guess I could. I guess some people make that decision, but I do not. I have tried to live my life the best way I know how.
You Can’t Stop the Waves
I think people experience this kind of situation in different ways, even today with COVID. There’s a lot of tragedy that COVID has caused, which has brewed significant anger and disconnection. What do we do with that anger? For me and my situation, I can’t change the fact that I was diagnosed with CF. Similarly, to how you can’t necessarily change COVID. However, like Joseph Goldstein stated, “you can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf”. You can let that anger and resentment fester and take over, or you can use that hurt and grief to do something powerful. I guess I chose to surf. Thank you for tuning in to the second episode of Shaina’s Stories. Keep tuning in to hear more.