This week I got the closest to a “you’re cured” I’m ever going to get. My specialist – a dermatologist who I’d been seeing since the very beginning, 4 years ago – discharged me. She took a large, chrome stamp, weighing it in her hand, and pressed it in a rectangle of red ink before stamping it down satisfyingly on my thick case notes. DISCHARGED.
While she left the room to get some forms, my hand reached out for the bulky brown ring binder which is, apparently, the second volume of my case notes. My fingers traced the imprint of my name, written out in full, in harsh black capitals, before resting on the severe looking letters that meant so much to me.
Such a small, insignificant word to most but to me it was everything. It was hope, health, happiness. It was life. It was future. It was the end of the battle. This word signified my winning the war against all the odds. It was the difference between wanting to live and wanting to die. That was how much this word, stamped squinty across a ring binder cover, meant to me.
People ask me if I’m angry at the doctors for misdiagnosing the illness. Well, I’m not. I don’t see the point in getting cross. It is a pity that I had to go through what I did; the painful operations, the tests, the shame, the anger, the resentment, the strong treatments for a disease I did not have...but there's one thing I'm sure of and that's the fact that it’s no one’s fault. Anger is not an emotion I want to feel at this point in time, I’m too busy trying to move on with my life, to rediscover what a full, healthy life is all about, I don’t want to waste one moment of that time looking back and asking ‘why’.
But just because I don’t want to look back in anger (cue the Oasis song) doesn’t mean I want to block it out. It may sound strange to some, but I don’t want to blot the past couple of years from my mind; I want to remember every tiny detail. I want to commit every last sentiment, every sensation, every teardrop to memory.
I need to remember what I went through, because it changed my life considerably. It changed me as a person. I am who I am today because of the past four years of suffering. I suppose, if truth be told, I am so scared to lose my new found ability to appreciate everything in life, that I’m clinging onto the painful memories of being sick and disfigured. I don’t want to go back to what life was like before. I don’t want to go back to the unappreciative me; the girl who took everything for granted. Right now, because I am still so appreciative of everything, when something is difficult I am always able to say "ah well, at least I'm not sick!"
When you are told you are sick and there is no cure, a little bit of your soul curls up and dies. You mourn for the person you were before, because, for all intents and purposes, that person has died too. You inevitably find yourself lost in a rough sea of hopelessness, being thrown by the waves, your head barely managing to keep above the surface. You ask why, why me? But the most excruciating of all is the regret. The regret is worse than the why me's because the regret is blaming yourself. Why didn’t you make the most of your life when you had one? Why didn’t you go out more? Why did you spend all those hours working when you had the energy to go out and take a walk? Why, when you had a perfect nose, did you hide away in your room just because you had a measly spot on your chin? If only you had known what you would look like a few years down the line...It's always the 'if only's.
I promised myself that if I ever recovered I would really live my life. Not just exist, but live. I told myself I’d make sure to really appreciate the little things in life, like being with loved ones, relaxing, taking a walk, living. I made that promise to myself and I won’t forget it.
I have to be very careful now. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at a healthy life. I need to make the most of it, because one day, I could lose everything again.
DISCHARGED is a word full of hope and happiness and health for me. It is full of life. But it also holds a warning nestled deep in the blood red lettering. This is my second chance, take it and run.