Three days after the shooting in Newtown, CT, I had a flare of Crohn’s symptoms so bad I thought I might have to go to hospital. After not being able to keep down any food or drink all day, moving from the bed to the couch to the bed while pain ripped across my abdomen, I was dehydrated and near delirium.
I avoided the hospital that day, but the experience stayed with me. I knew that the week after the marathon bombings I was going to be in for it. My symptoms have been rare lately; I’ve been going months at a time without any pain or nausea. When the post-attack anxiety settled in, I had a feeling my streak was going to end.
Just as expected, last Wednesday night into Thursday I could feel my digestion slowing down, and all the related discomfort. As flares go it wasn’t too bad – I only threw up once, and the flashes of pain were nothing I couldn’t breathe through. Yet layered on top of the physical pain was the disappointment that I was setting the clock back to 0:00, that mental clock I keep of “how long has it been since the last time I threw up”.
I worry that someday I will forget what it was like to be well. I knew that I was fortunate to be so healthy, but I assumed fortune would continue to smile on me. I knew that my health was mostly luck, but I thought that by taking care of myself I’d keep that luck firmly in my grasp.
Getting sick grew me up. Most of us have something in our lives that did that to us: a trauma or a death or a crisis or a change. I lasted longer than many, into my thirties before I had to stare adulthood in the face. Maybe I should worry that I won’t forget what it was like to be healthy, that I will always look back to the time when I didn’t have to worry about whether I could digest the corn in today’s chowder.
Rather than hoping to forget or remember, I wish I could not care, that I would not even realize there is a dividing line that runs through the timeline of my life.