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Keeping Christmas

My dad and I sat on black and silver chairs in a tiny brick house two hundred miles away from home and listened to my doctor discuss adding a natural supplement to my standard Lyme Disease treatment. I watched as he drew sketches on his clipboard to show how the supplement breaks through the biofilm that the bacteria creates--yet one more method of protecting itself in order to survive and evade antibiotics--in order to kill more of what has tried to kill me.

I watched, a growing dread building in the pit of my stomach. Killing more germs meant releasing more toxins. Releasing more toxins meant more herxheimers. More herxheimers meant more inflammation, every single symptom--from physical to neurological--intensifying. Which meant more pain. More fatigue. More suffering. I was going to get sick again--"you get worse before you get better," that's the Lyme Disease treatment mantra. I know it intimately. We've been down this road before... I glanced at my dad before my gaze settled on my doctor, unwavering and resolute. "Let's do it," I said. "But--" I stopped him before he could write out a prescription. "Just give me Christmas. I'll do whatever it takes to get better after, but I want to feel good for Christmas."

And I have been feeling good--better than I had been in months. The neuropathy began again in March, though I pushed the thought of a relapse to the back of my mind. In June, the headaches and dizziness seemed familiar, then the loss of focus, memory, and comprehension swiftly followed in July, and I couldn't ignore it any longer. Back on treatment after nine months in remission, I slept through August and most of September and silently cried through the pain in October until I finally saw some relief in November, some symptoms resolving themselves and others trickling in now one at a time instead of bombarding my body all at once. Hope. That's what I had in December. Sudden and unexpected hope that I could get through this a second time.

Every once in a while, there comes a moment--one simple, nondescript moment when you start looking ahead instead of mourning what's been left behind, when you remember how grateful you are for all you have--the strength you've gained--instead of grieving what's been lost.

I didn't know what I was fighting then, when this all first began, and all those years of treatment and progress and building back myself and my future seemed to crumble around me again with this relapse that seemed harder than the original diagnosis. I didn't know what I had left.

No, that's not entirely true. I knew what I had--I've always known. Unconditional love from family. Unwavering support from friends. Tiny tendrils of hope in the heart even when I despaired.

And strength.

I had strength. Because I knew what I was up against this time. I'd been through it before, and I'm not the same person because of it. I'd get through it again.

And I am. These last two weeks, I've noticed those moments of change--imperceptible to most, but monumental to me. Larger waves of energy led to a flood of renewed hope, and I thought, this. This is what I'm fighting for. To feel good again--healthy, hopeful, alive. If I could get through it then, I can get through it now.

This is what I'll look back on when I start this new treatment--a memory of how I felt then. This is what I'll look forward to: making plans to see old friends in the spring and summer--a reminder of how I can feel again.

That's what I wanted to hold onto now--a chance to feel normal and celebrate with renewed energy and excitement a season that always feels so magical. Visits with friends. Christmas with family. New Year's Eve ushering out the old and welcoming in the new. One last hurrah before I gather my strength to fight one more time.

"I've been spending all my time and energy focused on getting better," I told my doctor and my dad. I'd had a taste of it before--what it was like to live life without Lyme Disease--and I wanted that again. "This is the time to do whatever it takes. But not until after Christmas." I wasn't about to share the holidays with this illness. I was keeping Christmas for myself.

Because it's these moments that I'm carrying forward into the new year. It's the memory of how I feel right now that I'm clinging to, when I need the reminder of where I've been, where I am, where I'm going... And the future I still have yet to live.

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