Although it sounds cliché, and is often not what one with chronic illness wants to hear, I do believe that everything happens for a reason. While I don't identify as particularly religious, I do consider myself extremely spiritual and in tune with the universe. I believe our destiny is mapped out well before our spirits are manifested in the form of the human body, and I believe strongly in reincarnation. I believe that many of us who battle chronic illness, or who are faced with any sort of life-altering illness, are old souls. Perhaps our souls have been in this world in another form in a past life or perhaps our energies have simply been a witness to a variety of difficult and trying scenarios. Regardless, although it may not feel like it, I believe that those of us who battle chronic illness are chosen for a reason.
One of the greatest solaces I've found in living life with a severe congenital heart condition is the empathy it gives me for others and the opportunities it has given me to connect with such incredible people on such a different level. I actively blog for the Adult Congenital Heart Association and the American Heart Association and have been blessed to reach so many individuals through my writing. The feedback I receive is so incredibly humbling and it is incredibly rewarding to know that I have made a difference in the lives of many. But by far the most profound blessing to come out of my life with chronic illness, and now hers as well, has been the deepening of my relationship with Allison, my soul sister!
Allison and I have always had a wonderful relationship. We met during sorority recruitment her sophomore and my junior year of college and are big/little. We are incredibly similar, yet vastly different. But for us, it has always worked. Post our respective graduations we have navigated this crazy journey called life together and are lucky enough to live only about 20 minutes apart! The past 2 or 3 years we have been on a similar mental and spiritual journey. From acupuncture to yoga, our idolization of Yogagirl, sharing health blogs or book recommendations, dabbling with crystals, essential oils and journaling and fine tuning the power of saying no – we have grown and connected in so many ways. Together we've supported each other, held each other accountable, and picked each other back up from some of our lowest moments – all while striving to cultivate a life surrounded by good vibes only (while also acknowledging and navigating the trials and tribulations that make up #realmotherfuckinglife)
I will never forget when Allison first told me that they had discovered a lump in her chest that was encasing part of her heart, that couldn't be surgically removed, and that was most likely cancerous. I lost my stepfather to a grueling battle with esophageal cancer and my mother is a two time cancer survivor, but Allison's news turned my world completely upside down. Although she didn’t know it at the time, I spent three days in essentially complete silence. I spoke to no one at work and laid in my husband's arms at night and sobbed uncontrollably. My heart broke into a million pieces. I genuinely tried to barter with the higher powers that be. I recited monologues in my head – advising those up above that I'd been sick for 28 years; it was me who should continue to shoulder the burden of illness, not her. I'd do anything, anything at all, to take it all away. This is my little sister, one of my very dearest friends, and I couldn't fathom her having to go through the hell that is a severe medical condition. Alas, that’s not how the world works, and Allison went on to get her cancer diagnosis. Allison's story is certainly not mine to tell, but I was privileged to be by her side through her diagnosis and treatment. For the most part, I tried to get over to Allison's at least every other weekend. I helped her measure her head. We poured over the internet looking at wig styles, colors, and accessories. I drank too much iced coffee and she broke my iced coffee mugs. We facetimed. We sat in silence. We sat in tears. We sat in normalcy. We did it all. And through it all – our relationship deepened in a way that I can't even fully explain. It's ironic, as the point of this post was to capture that, but as I've been writing I've realized it's too powerful to even put into words.
It's certainly not a coincidence that Allison and I met. We are both big believers in the universe – and wouldn't you know, the "anniversary" of her diagnosis is also the anniversary of us becoming big/little. While clearly neither of us want to have illnesses or go through such trauma, it all seems a little bit easier knowing we can do it together. Allison is wise beyond her years and although things will never be the same as before…I couldn't be prouder of her. I'm so lucky to have such a kick ass friend and sister by my side – and I can't wait to see where this next phase of our lives takes us!