Milestones take many forms. There are the calendar milestones such as birthdays or holidays. There are personal growth milestones like the first word, first day of school, or first car.
Then there are the weird milestones that give rhythm to life with a chronic condition.
On the university campus where I work, I belong to a professional organization that held our annual spring luncheon last week. Making my way across the quad, it was impossible not to think back to the same event one year ago, when I was limping along, in every sense of the word.
Limping literally, thanks to a bizarre and intense hip pain that had flared up a few days earlier. I remain convinced that it was due to the high-dose PPI’s I had been taking for a week or so in order to exclude GERD en route to my eventual diagnosis.
Limping figuratively because I was feeling so overall cruddy. It had only been a month or two previously that intense stomach pains and persistent swallowing problems had driven me to seek treatment in the first place. I was run down and exhausted and, in retrospect, probably malnourished.
And I was limping along under worry and the incontrovertible evidence that something was genuinely wrong
Despite my impossible-to-ignore symptoms, I really had been doing my best to ignore them. Now, however, I was carrying in mind that first, ugly endoscopy report. I knew nothing about what a normal esophagus should look like, but even a complete novice like me could see right away that the photos were far, far from normal. How could I have gotten so broken?
Whatever was wrong, I told my husband, it was obvious that I was someone who could no longer not have a gastroenterologist. In addition to limping, I also was reeling.
I wish I could say that, a year on, everything is better. It’s not, of course. I still worry and wonder what’s next. I have the new pressing weight of my father’s recent death.
But my hip is largely healed, and my esophagus, too, thanks to the modern miracle of steroids. I’m tending to my nutrition better, trying to exercise more, informing myself as much as possible about my returned friend eosinophilia, and slowly but steadily chipping away at the ten pounds I packed on when Dad was sick. Heck, I even have a blog.
My walk across campus was a moment when the then and the now collided, laying open the distance between them. I wouldn’t say it’s a celebration, but it’s definitely its own kind of milestone.