I was diagnosed with a life threatening disease twice in my life. I overcame that disease twice in my life.
I was sitting on our old pleated brown couch one warm summer night. I’ve always loved that couch. As torn up and worn out as it was, it was always a safety net for me to run and jump onto when my sister chased me or my mom yelled at me. The pillows saved me from seeing and hearing my parents fight after their long workdays. Tom & Jerry, one of my favorite shows as a child, was playing in the background of the laughter and screams coming from my mouth while my father playfully tickled me to try and steal the remote away. There must have been some sporting event on, probably tennis, which is why he was so adamant on getting the remote from me. I wouldn’t budge though. There were only 30 minutes every night where I was excited to watch TV, and that was 7-7:30 when Tom & Jerry would come on. The next few minutes were a bit hazy.
Never in my six years of life had I seen a face go from so joyful and cheery to frantic and paralyzed. As much as I wanted to believe my dad was playing another game to get the remote, I heard the puff of air he sucked into his lungs in that moment that he grabbed my arm. I can still hear it.
I looked down at my pale and fragile arm. Red dots. Little red dots cascading themselves up and down my arm. They reminded me of one of those connect the dots games I used to love doing in my coloring books. What would I get when I connected the dots to the crimson specks spilling across my arm?
Everything went silent. I could literally hear my heart pumping blood too fast for it to keep up to my head. A sweat broke across my forehead when I put both arms in front of me. More red dots. So many. Not countable. And bruises. Tons of bruises. Green and purple and blue and red. Where did they come from?
A more careful observation with my clothes off revealed millions and millions of those little red dots. It was like a bright ruby paintbrush splashed its remains on a canvas; my body. I went to take a look in the mirror, examining every inch of my skin. The bruises were everywhere. I didn’t know that many colors existed. My body really was a canvas. I was always a clumsy child but where did all these colors come from? I don’t remember hurting myself so much in the last day to have bruises all over. What was worse than my body was what I found in my mouth: black bubbles around the insides of my cheeks and on my lips that bled if I tried to pop them.
ITP, Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, is an autoimmune disease. It’s mean and nasty and the worst part, it’s idiopathic which means nobody knows why the hell it happens. Platelets are made in our bone marrow. They are what help our cuts from bleeding out and help form clots to heal broken and/or torn blood vessels. My body was not making platelets. Or making them properly. Or making enough. We never really found out.
There was lots of bruising. So much. There was one on my thigh that was shaped like a football and one on my arm that looked like a puffy cloud. So many bruises everywhere. And they were not getting healed because my little tiny platelet helpers were not assisting in closing the internal wounds. My body was hurting itself. Killing itself. What was supposed to keep me alive inside was now working against me and killing me. What would happen if a major blood vessel popped?
I was diagnosed with this life threatening disease twice in my life. I came so close to death twice in my life before I was even a teenager.
When I feel lost, when I feel confused, and when I feel like I do not know what I am doing or where I am going, I like to take a step back and remember those times. I remember my parents being so afraid to let me out of their sight for fear of it being the last. I remember my sister crying because she did not want to go to school while I was in the hospital. I remember the smell of my hospital gown and the nausea that came every time I smelled rubbing alcohol. I remember walking in, not knowing when or if I would ever come out.
Most importantly, I remember getting discharged. I remember the calmness and stillness of being wheeled out of that building and breathing in the fresh air. I told myself that I was given this chance twice; I was given two chances to start over. I am here for a reason. I am still here for a reason. No matter how absent and disoriented I feel at times, no matter how much of a letdown I think I am, no matter how low I fall, I remember that I am still here and there is a purpose for my existence.
There is a purpose for my existence. There is a purpose for your existence. Don’t give up because you can’t figure it out yet. Take a deep breath. Drink a cold glass of water. And keep going.
Because there is a purpose for your existence.