When I envisioned the weekend of my thirtieth birthday, I imagined Mexican beaches and margaritas. Or karaoke and Asian cuisine. When the weekend got closer and the planning began, I envisioned the circus show we’d be going to, and playing in the park. What I did not imagine was that the days leading up to my birthday would be one last lesson in fear.
For a week and a half my husband had experienced swelling in his right arm and hand. Since he thought it had something to do with his muscles, he had a friend who is a massage therapist take a look at it, and she urged him to see a doctor immediately. We sat in the ER for a few hours, and then got his diagnosis: a blood clot.
Over the course of the next few days, my husband underwent two procedures, switched rooms three times, and stayed on a steady drip of blood thinners. Luckily the clot was in a vein, not an artery, so the danger was not as high as it could have been. But it did not quell the ball of anxiety growing in my chest.
The universe has a sick sense of humor.
When we first got the diagnosis, I had to excuse myself to the bathroom, where I proceeded to breakdown. I sobbed for what felt like hours, knowing I had to get it all out in the privacy of the ER bathroom so that I could be the one telling my husband it was going to be okay, instead of the other way around. I wiped my face, took a couple of deep breaths, and walked back to his room, where I proceeded to make a joke about how he didn’t like me getting all this attention for my birthday. It’s become our tag line for this whole experience.
The anxiety comes in waves, washing me with fear and tension. Then, as though a cloud has dispersed, everything is fine. During those bouts with my dark demon, my brain has wandered, playing out what it would be like to hear the news that there was a complication during one of the procedures or getting a letter saying we owe the hospital $50,000, the heaviness of “worst case scenario” pushing on my chest and gut. The battle for my sanity has been sometimes treacherous, but mostly easy as a Sunday morning.
Talk about change.
When I think about the person I was one year ago, and how that person would have handled this situation, I see clearly just how far I’ve come. That Little D would have had a nervous breakdown, her waistband growing from nerves and a therapy of chocolate and wine, her mental state causing bouts of colds and illness. While I’m not done with my fight against fear, I’m no longer on the verge.
Laughter has been our medicine, and I believe one of the reasons I’m doing better than I could have imagined. Common jokes over the last four days: my husband got me a hotel room with a great view for my birthday:
…teaching himself how to be ambidextrous wasn’t such a bad idea; not eating after midnight is because of the Gremlins:
…no need for blood thinners doc, we’ll just drink more beer.
My thoughts drifted back to my big birthday plans yesterday while the nurse drew my husband’s blood and checked his vitals. I have built up this birthday in my head, trying to tie up this blog, my twenties, the last few years of discovery with a pretty bow, filing it away and moving on. But as I watched the pain meds glaze over my husband’s eyes, it dawned on me how naïve my thinking had been. Life is not so segmented. I can’t detach that past person from who I will be in the future, much like my husband can’t change that this clot was formed because of the way his body was made. It’s just not how life works. Sometimes you have to simply accept your circumstances and try to smile.
There’s a good chance they will release my husband tomorrow, on my birthday, in which case there will be champagne consumed.
We will toast to me turning thirty, to him being alive, to whimsy and laughter and conquering over the crazy.
We will smile like happy dogs and kiss like our first date.
We will be alright.