This Labor Day I traveled to my hometown of Wichita, Kansas. I took an eleven hour train each way by myself so that I could spend two days with my sister Stacey and her family. Two months ago, Stacey was diagnosed with acoustic neuroma, a benign brain tumor. Less than a week before Labor Day she had surgery. Recovery will take six to eight weeks.
My sister Stacey and I are very close. We both turn to each other in times of stress and also in times of rejoice. The 700 plus miles that has distanced us the last thirteen years has not deterred our relationship one bit. Over the years we have learned that we share many of the same beliefs on parenting, education, relationships, food, and health. Stacey has been a source of strength for me since day one of my diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis. She has listened to me cry, listened to my newest idea of recovery, and helped me out during her vacations making meals in my home and even cleaning my house, refrigerator included. (If you saw my refrigerator, you would understand what a gift she gave me.) Being able to give back a little bit feels good – plus I just want to be there with my little sister.
Something else Stacey and I share is that we both listen to our bodies. When Stacey thought she was having some sinus issues, she visited her family physician. Something inside told her she could not wait for the routine route of antibiotics and such that the family physician wanted to try and sought out a specialist on her own. It was a good thing because the tumor is large and already putting pressure on her brain stem.
It seems it doesn’t matter what the diagnosis, we all go through similar phases of dealing with our diagnosis - fear, denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. With rheumatoid arthritis, we seem to go through these stages again and again and have time to deal with them in our own unique way. Stacey has not been given this luxury. She learned of her diagnosis and two months later she is facing a major surgery that comes with a lot of unknowns.
What was known as Stacey went into surgery is that she had quickly come to a point of acceptance. She realized the surgery has to be done and was already visualizing herself in a good place afterwards, ready to take on whatever it brings. One of the most important components in my RA package to recovery has been visualization. Over the years while experiencing intense flares I have chosen to visualize myself riding my bicycle or freely laughing without it causing pain in my joints. I saw myself the way I wanted myself to be. Stacey is busy doing the same thing right now.
Another important component of recovery for me has been having a support system that is truly optimistic and is able to take over the visualization for me when I can’t. In the past, my daughter would often have me lie in bed and imagine my good days or even imagine myself outside playing with her rather than lie and focus on the pain. My sister would often call and ask questions and listen as I cleared out my thoughts and made room for the positive.
As Stacey went into surgery, she already had folks that have signed up to bring four weeks worth of food for her family. She has friends that have said prayers for her, had masses in her name, and provided hospital care packages. She went into surgery knowing that she is loved by a ton of people. It makes my heart happy knowing that this bubble of love is surrounding my sister. I know that between this bubble and her positive visualization, she will be able to take on anything that happens afterwards.
I hope as you enjoy the fall, you take a little time to visualize yourself in a good place. Where do you want to be? See it in your mind. Let your mind wonder away from the now and instead to where you have been happy and where you will be happy and pain-free again. You can do it! Love your family and friends. A few times my sister has been overwhelmed by the kindness so many people have shown her and I keep reminding her that it didn’t happen by accident. She has been busy touching people’s lives for many years and the gifts are returning to her – it is a beautiful cycle. As always, I am sending out my healing thoughts to each of my blogger friends and hoping today is a day to rejoice in your health.
Cathy can also be found writing at her personal blog The Life and Adventures of Cateepoo.
Published On: September 13, 2011