Dear younger Laura,
First off let’s keep this real, like we do pretty much everything and just start off by saying this is weird AF to be writing a letter to my younger self. The younger self that didn’t know they had a progressive demyelinating neurological disease lurking within. The younger me that doesn’t know Shonda Rimes is going to totally ruin Grey’s Anatomy by killing off Mcsteamy, Lexi, sending Christina to what might as well be another planet and killing Mcdreamy. The younger me who thought she knew hardships, trials and tribulations but in fact knew nothing of the sort. Oh my dear sweet dumb younger self, if you only knew what all awaits you. In a weird way (weird being as I know I can’t) I wish I could save you. I wish I could protect our innocence just a little bit longer. I wish I could protect your heart, your self esteem, your wild child spirit, your belief that everyone in medicine is good. I wish I could hug you and hold you because I know what’s coming, and I know that you won’t let anyone hold you when it all comes crashing down, because you want to be the strong one, you feel you have to be the strong one; and you know that allowing someone to hold you during those vulnerable moments will cause you to completely fall apart, and we don’t particularly do that. In fact, we tend to avoid things like that like the damn plague. But that plan doesn’t always work out in our best interest (or ever), it leads to some unfathomable breakdowns that will leave you exhausted, alone and scared. It will lead to self isolation for a few too many days that turn into weeks.
You’ll have to give up the life you had planned. The pretty little pink glitter filled bubble that you crave to live your life in must take on a new form, a new image. And trust me, the quicker you see that and accept it, the sooner you will start to grieve and heal the dreams of what once was. Please don’t let me scare you, while you will give up some pretty big dreams, you’ll find the almost equivalence of these dreams in other forms. Let me give you some prequels into the joy that awaits. You’ll out of sheer desperation for a treatment that works allow physicians to infuse experimental chemotherapy through your veins, your hem-onc nurse brain having given such medications to your leukemic patients knowing the damage it’s causing to your already dramatic reproductive system. When that fails you’ll even sign a waiver to begin an category X medication knowing what that means for the future eggs inside you. And let me tell you now: IT WILL BE OKAY. Yes I know that was always our dream to be a mother, yes I know that one reason we chose nursing for the flexibility it offered when we became a mother, yes I know we bought a 3 bedroom house at 20 to facilitate this dream but like I just said it will be okay. Because getting diagnosed and taking care of patients with chronic conditions who have children will change your heart and mind on marriage and having children. I won’t get any further into that because I don’t want to start a controversy, just know we make that decision with peace and much thought. We also are so incredibly blessed to get to play the aunt role to some pretty incredible nieces and nephews and even a Godson, who you will fall head over heels in love with, so incredibly much it will fill the void in your heart, and be everything you ever needed.
I wish I could warn you, caution you, and pray over you, for you to never lose the sparkle that makes you so uniquely you. But, spoiler alert you will. And it will hurt. Maybe even more than all the broken dreams, failed treatments and physical pain. You won’t mean for it to happen, in fact you won’t be able to even pinpoint when it slipped away. One day you’ll look in the mirror above the bathroom sink and realize you don’t recognize the hallowed eye, physically and emotionally exhausted girl starting back at you. And that my dear sweet younger self is the moment you will realize numbness is worse than heartache ever thought about being. Don’t worry though my darling, you’ll still catch glimpses of her, especially when you interact with your patients, you’ll see the little remnants of sparkle come through your words and actions, and as validating as it is to be reminded that that ever positive glitterful girl is still inside you, at the same time it will break your heart, when you realize how exhausting it is to bring her out from beneath the scars, failures and heartaches. I wish I could tell you this is the only work and personal harsh realization you’ll face at 26, but unfortunately it’s not. You’ll have your share of physical hurdles, but you will have coworkers who turn into more than family, that will fill in those gaps on the hard days and remind you the good you still offer. You’ll throw a full blown temper tantrum in the soiled utility room the first time you miss a omega port access. You’ll throw carts into walls and eventually come to rest in that beyond disgusting floor in old dried puddles of God only knows what as you break,but then your charge nurse will come in, and remind you why your invaluable, why you’re more than your shortcomings and failures. Then she’ll make you get up, off that floor, and send you in to access another port. And you’ll initially hate her for it. You’ll argue, drag your feet, even whine and beg not to have to do it, but you’ll lose that battle with her, (per the usual. 😉) and you’ll go in and nail that access, but more significantly you’ll concur that fear. Months, later you’ll succumb to the fact that your bedside career is over. Your Hem-Onc career is over. But you know what? It turns out to be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Sure it hurts walking away from the floor that raised you, saw you through nursing school and taught you how to be a nurse, gave you some of your very best friends and supported you through your initial diagnosis and all the progression, but you’ll join a group of people who are just as supportive and who are amazing clinicians and people. You’ll join a physician who appreciates you more so than anyone ever has, who understands your illness and makes sure you feel valued and never limited by your symptoms. He’ll have maintance rewire the lights in the office, making them adjustable for your optic neuritis photosensitivity, he’ll continue to remind you that you have value. You’ll fall in love with a new set of patients, a new group of frequently seen illness with their own medications and pathologies to be learned and you’ll learn to love your new role, even more than the one you left behind.
You’ll end up finally ending that relationship you fought so hard for. The pain of hurting another person due to your illness will be too much. The fear of it hurting to love you, will destroy your plans at any meaningful future with him. I wish I could tell you that this part will be okay, that it will get easier, that others won’t question your decision, call it wrong, selfish or cruel, but that my dear, would be a lie.
Rest assured though, you’ll find your glitter again. The fight to keep it, will be daily, but will take your strength, faith and bravery to their maximum potential. Like we said earlier on, this journey and life is not for the faint of heart, and you my dear Laura are not that. You are a fighter, with enough glitter to brighten the darkest days ahead. You are a warrior.
Future, current, you.