By Tammie Allegro
Feeling grateful to finally have a diagnosis for my chronic pain, I thought my life would start to turn around and I would be able to focus all my energy on my fibromyalgia. I knew from doing research that people with a chronic illness often have multiple illnesses. So, I was feeling pretty good about dodging that curse. Little did I know that lightning wasn't done with me; I wasn't out of the woods, and there were a few more illnesses that would come knocking on my door. As it turns out, I was also recently diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome. And, I am still waiting for the results of some of my lab work.
Recently, I was reading Rebecca Zook's very powerful blog discussing her cancer diagnosis after dealing for years with chronic autoimmune issues. All I could think was how much it sucked that she was having something so terrible happen to her after she had spent her entire life just fighting to stay above water. I was surprised that the tone of her posts and blogs never traveled down the "why me" path of self-pity. Let's be honest, she would be justified in feeling that way. But, it was her attitude that helped me find strength to focus on the blessings in my life rather than the curses. This isn't easy; the easier route is to be angry and depressed. After all, people wouldn't judge me for being bitter; if anything, I think people would find it harder to understand how I would stay positive through these trials.
Mother Theresa has a quote that always makes me smile and helps me put my struggles in perspective:
"I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much."
This quote reminds me of just how much I have survived in my lifetime, which makes me proud. I know pride isn't always good, but when you have a chronic illness, you have to find little victories. For me, being able to continue working all these years through my illness and diagnosis is a huge accomplishment. I have had a lot of support from my family at home and my work family. Nothing is accomplished alone. I have also suffered losses and conflict that I wish on no one. Through all of it, somehow God knew I could handle it, and I did. Not always gracefully, but I got through it.
So, now, this brings me back full circle. Given my faith, who am I to question Him? This doesn't mean I can never ask myself or Him: "Why me?" But, it does mean that I have to be ready for the lessons He will continue to teach me in my life. It also means I have to find the silver lining in the double strikes of lightning. To survive and thrive with these illnesses, I am going to need all my energy I can muster. If I use this energy to be angry or feel sorry for myself, then I can never give 100 percent of myself to the daily fight. And, it really is a daily fight. Getting up in the morning feeling like I never fell asleep is so hard. Especially when I have to go to work and put 100 percent into my job. Lucky for me, I love what I do every day. And, then, I have to go home and do my work there.
Research shows that lightning actually strikes more frequently in the same spots than you might think. For instance, the Empire State Building gets struck more than 100 times a year. Clearly, the saying "lightning never strikes twice" is a myth that every person with a chronic illness knows too well. But, instead of looking at lightning as a bad thing, I am going to use it to fuel my drive. Those lightning strikes give me the energy I need to fight harder, work better, love more and live this life to its fullest.
How many times has lightning struck you? How have you fought back and won?