How the Past Two Years Have Prepared Me to More Calmly Cope With COVAD-19 (Part II)

(The short version…our life’s been like this for us for over two years – falling headlong from one frightening personal disaster to the next.) 

This is the second installment of several chronicling the most difficult two years of our life. (Read all posts in this series.) The purpose is not to whine about our misfortune but rather to offer some perspective and hope to those to whom life-changing, Earth-shattering events haven’t installed themselves (seemingly permanently) into their everyday existence. We were once rookies to the stress. Now, it’s, sadly, we’re old pros at handling disappointment and uncertainty.

Strike 2

So 2017 had turned to 2018… barely. A low-key holiday season passed; we were anxious to put the frightening perforated diverticulitis ordeal in November/December behind us and begin a new year on an optimistic note. That, however, was not in the cards. One of our two cats, Cooper, a spunky, loving, personable feline if ever there was one, began having serious breathing issues. His poor little body struggling to take in breath broke our hearts. Multiple, frustrating visits to our vet throughout the month of January  yielded differing opinions on what was wrong and no viable treatment. When his breathing became dangerously labored and the vets were out of ideas about how to help him, they referred us to an emergency pet clinic in Chicago as his his only chance. There they put him in an oxygen tent and the highly trained doctors ran more tests and tried to help him but to no avail. Without a definitive diagnosis, we had to say a final farewell to our little buddy on February 1. I’ve never cried so hard in my whole life as I did that evening. I felt helpless and cheated to lose him at only 11 years old; we deserved more time with him in our lives. Devastated, heartbroken, crushed don’t even begin to express the depth of our grief at losing this bright light from our life. 

Cooper being hugged by his brother Eggs Benedict

Instead of ringing in a fresh, happy new year, we were dealt this gut punch. A dark sadness descended over us. In the span of just two months, two enormous, life-altering events had happened to us. Life had become so scary, so unsettled, so uncertain. We were beginning to feel an underlying unsettledness, like we were standing on a steep slope that threatened, at any moment, to give way, sending us hurtling down, down, down into an unescapable chasm of despair.

Strike 3

The next several months of 2018 went by in a blur of sadness, missing our Cooper. His absence made our lives seem lonely and joyless. Slowly the grief felt less acute but we certainly felt the void he’d left every day still. We needed desperately to distract ourselves from the emptiness we felt. We decided to delve into a gratitude project that had been percolating in us since the previous summer: Thank You Token. The idea behind it was, simply, to manifest a system to “reward” people for their acts of kindness with physical “tokens” that they could then pass along to others upon witnessing acts of kindness. We created a comprehensive website for the initiative. We even enlisted the help of a graphic designer friend to create a simple logo and requested sample tokens from a manufacturer we researched online. We established a Kickstarter campaign to generate funds to have the tokens made and distributed. It was an exciting, all-consuming and, perhaps most importantly, distracting, undertaking. We were fueled by our desire to make a difference in the world by promoting kindness. We put our hearts and minds into this project and it represented a ray of hope streaming into a very dark several months.  We ran the Kickstarter for two months, from late March to early May, 2018. 

Our logo and sample tokens

Unfortunately, we did not reach our goal on Kickstarter and the project did not get funded…

Another blow. We’d been so excited and optimistic – but it wasn’t to be. By this time, we were feeling like we couldn’t catch a break, even when we took initiative and worked up some enthusiasm. We just couldn’t pull ourselves out of this negative spiral. The next few months were melancholy, to say the least.

Strike 4 

The doctors who cared for Scott during his perforated diverticulitis ordeal back in December advised that once he’d had several months to heal, he should have a colonoscopy to make certain everything was looking good. It would be right on time, as he was turning 50 – the age that it is recommended to have your baseline colonoscopy – in June. After getting past a hiccup with insurance, his colonoscopy was scheduled for October 18. The result? Everything was not looking good. The colonoscopy discovered a malignant tumor in Scott’s sigmoid colon (the lower part of the intestine). We were stunned, scared and overwhelmed by the sudden, unexpected news. You can read all about learning of Scott’s cancer in my blog post entitled, How Our Live Completely Changed in Two Hours. And it really did change dramatically. This information is not easily digested. Suddenly, on top of what we’d already endured in less than a year, now cancer was a part of our life. But you know what? That still wouldn’t be the whole of it. Nope. Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of our Two Years in Hell…

As I mentioned in my preface, this is second in a series of pieces about life as we’ve lived it lo these past two years plus change. I hope that, combined, they tell a story of how, first and foremost, adversity sucks. It drags you down into the depths of your being; makes you assess your priorities, question your ability to cope and lays bare your vulnerability. Beyond that, I hope they tell the story of how, getting through the adversity – and on the other side of it – you discover a myriad of revelations, truths and perspectives you can only imagine. If we didn’t learn this fully yet, we would certainly have more opportunities coming in the nearer-than-we-could-believe future.

Stay tuned for Parts 3. 4, 5…

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