I haven’t been able to bring myself to write lately, because I’ve felt as if my thoughts weren’t worth sharing. Stuck in the wrong frame of mind—quite frankly, I’ve been in a rut!
This seems almost sacrilegious considering the circumstances. Three weeks ago, I flew out to South Bend to celebrate my birthday with all of my Notre Dame friends. Just a week after that I flew to Rome with my parents for a private Papal audience. How could it be, that after the unfathomable privilege of meeting Pope Francis, I was left wallowing in self-pity?
Here’s the simplest way I can explain it:
Pretend your attitude is like a double-pan balancing scale. There is a negative and a positive side, and whichever end is heavier determines your overall mood. Anything that causes emotional turmoil, such as worry, anger, or fear, contributes to the weight of the negative side. Conversely, things that lift your spirits are collected in the opposite ‘pan of perks’.
Living with a chronic illness feels like having a perpetually lopsided scale. Throughout the day the pain, grievances, and frustrations pile on, tempting you to give into the “dark side” and sit with your sorrows. Sometimes, when I experience a flare-up of symptoms or receive upsetting test results from my doctors, I throw in my towel and give into whatever is dragging me down. On days like those, I pay the price and end up going to bed bitter.
However, recently I’ve been coaching myself to utilize a little trick I like to call “Tallying Thankfulness to Tip the Scale.” All I have to do is deeply appreciate every little blessing throughout my day in order to accumulate positive sentiments. A game-changer I’ve learned along the way: No accomplishment is too small to celebrate!
My illness is always, without fail, worse in the evening. As the day goes on, my state of disease progresses. I am grateful for this constancy, because I can use this knowledge to my advantage. Since I know the night is something to be dreaded, I spend all morning and early afternoon filling up on positives and stacking the odds in my favor.
What are a few of my recent negatives?
- Biopsies from a colonoscopy preformed last month came back positive for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (either Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis).
- Five weeks out, I have yet to see any reduction in symptoms upon completion of chemotherapy.
- There is strong suspicion I have either a chronic cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) leak or a vagus nerve entrapment at the base of my skull, which is exacerbating my symptoms. In order to explore these options, I will be working with a team of doctors at Stanford University Hospital.
- My great-uncle Joe passed away earlier this month. He will be mightily missed by everyone in the Fitzgerald-Petrone family.
(More importantly) What are a few of my recent positives?
- I started attending Drexel University this quarter. Although I am working on a very light course load, I am glad to have this distraction to keep my mind busy.
- I had the immense honor of meeting Pope Francis. As I gently shook his hand, in the Apostolic Palace, I said, “Holy Father, we love you.” He softly replied with a smile, “Please pray for me.”
- I had a spectacular 21st birthday celebration in South Bend with all my frieNDs. One of my all time favorite things to do is to dance the night away.
- My host parents, Lori Ann and Johan de Wet, from my student exchange to South Africa in 2010, are planning to visit on May 20th. It has been 5 years since I’ve seen them, but my love for them is like the sumptuous wine they make on their vineyard—“it just gets better with age”.
- My ‘big sister’, Caroline Kozub visited from Boston this weekend, to run the Board Street 10-miler. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE RUNNERS!
- Last week Paddy did tremendously well at MLDD service dog training. I’m proud of the great strides he is making. It is humbling to watch our partnership grow stronger every day.