I am just on the heels of an incredible 40th birthday celebration and feeling blessed and reminiscent. I had so many impactful moments in my 39th year; treasured time with family and friends, hilarious conversations with my four-year-old son, some awesome wins and some ego-blowing failures. The two happenings that struck me the most were the birth of my baby girl, and my contraction of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. They feel like terribly paired book-ends, one so beautiful and joyous and the other utterly terrifying.
Even now as I write this, my gorgeous little nugget daughter is crawling around the feet of my chair talking and giggling and trying to destroy my office. “Da!” she screams looking up to me as she tugs on the power cord to everything important in this work space (computer, scanner, internet, etc.). Da is what she calls her Daddy and her expression for all things she wants which pleases Dad beyond words and makes me only slightly unnerved.
Having this angel girl is easy for me to write about and celebrate. Like most moms I am infatuated with my little human and awed and inspired by her every accomplishment. She can hug better than anyone I have ever known. She throws herself fully into the love she wants in return. She laughs and smiles when pleased as easily as she screams and complains if something is not to her liking - giving her the nick name, “The Great Communicator”. Reagan would be proud.
As easy as it is for me to gush about my children, I find the opposite true about telling my story of contracting Stevens-Johnsons Syndrome. I tried documenting the experience by time-line, giving every remembered detail and associated emotion but that came out too sterile. I tried throwing humor in and playing up the sunny side to a terrible incident but that felt hallow and insincere. My husband had asked me why I wanted to tell the story and who was my audience. I finally sat back and asked myself, what was so impactful about this experience? I have come closer to death than this. I have experienced many childhood and adult traumas. Why did this experience hit me so much harder? And it is even as I write this that the realization is coming to me…
It is the book ends of joy and sadness, the balance to life that we all must experience to fully respect each side. The joy of new life and the possibility of death. I held them both close in my 39th year and that was terrifying. So, I am realizing that I don’t need to tell the gory and menacing details of my week in the ICU and my months of recovery. Perhaps when I am a better story teller I can make that a separate piece. For now, I am tremendously grateful to the staff at Scripps Encinitas and to my amazing dermatologist. Most of all I am so thankful to my family and friends that surrounded me with physical and emotional strength and support. I cannot tell you how lucky you all helped me realize I am. Especially my 6’5” husband who crawled into my hospital bed every morning and evening to hold me close.
It is easy to see the joy in the gift of a child but that comes with the struggles of sleepless nights and juggling time. Likewise, it is easy to see the pain in disease but even that can come with rewards in the showing-up of true love and friendship. Three months later, I am still healing but I am solid in the knowing that I am always in good company and stronger than I thought I was.