A sun setting with a tear falling from it's eye.

A Summer Story: When Bad Things Happen to Good People

I used to think people who were superstitious either believed in the supernatural or were a bit nutty.

Despite Stevie Wonder’s words, “When you believe in things that you don't understand then you suffer. Superstition ain't the way,” I’ve become superstitious about summer because of the repeated (unwelcome) circumstances thrown my way.

I grew up loving summer

Living in the Northeastern United States, I grew up loving summer, longing for the end of cold, harsh winters, when we could put our coats, boots, and gloves away.

Summer is a time of rest and renewal when as kids we’d chase lightning bugs and swim in the town pool until dinnertime. My happy summer memories are cemented in my soul, and I’ve tried to provide that same Utopian spirit for my husband and son.

But life obviously has other ideas for me. Unfortunately, the months from  May to August have been anything but magic for quite some time.

Summer became associated with loss and health issues

Within two years, I lost my beloved father, father-in-law and our incredible ginger cat, Max, all in the summer. A few years prior to that I suffered the simultaneous agony of kidney stones and gallstones, yes, in the summer. There were multiple doctor visits, surgeries, testing, and hospitalizations. I fell into a deep depression when my hormones plummeted, culminating in a full-blown MS flare.

Invasive tests and anxiety

The last few years, I’ve lived with horrific belly pain and bowel dysfunction. Doctors couldn’t find the cause. I bounced from doctor to doctor until a special test and a second colonoscopy revealed a diagnosis -  SIBO - or small intestinal bowel overgrowth (a medical condition when an unusually large population of bacteria lies in a person’s small intestine.) My summers were awash in the most harrowing appointments, invasive tests, and anxiety.

This summer, I hesitated to say out loud that I prayed for a happy summer. I said it anyway. I should have thought twice. Or three or four times.

Now, I’m that nutty woman who’s completely superstitious. Why?

Summer began with devastating news

Summer began by learning that our adorable, sweet and gentle eight-year-old Russian Blue kitty, Smokey,  has incurable cancer. She’s so little, with such beautiful feminine features and a completely ladylike manner.

We are heartbroken. If you’re an animal lover, you know pets are our family. They provide unconditional love and affection. They steal our hearts.

Another kidney stone

Moving on, my urologist told me in July I have another growing kidney stone. This one is number 7. I’ve done all I can to avoid another stone. I take medication to prevent them (11 pills a day), drink 64 ounces of water with lemon, and carefully watch my diet. I must be a stone breeder. Remembering the pain that was worse than childbirth, I am not a happy camper about what the future may hold.

I also don’t want another full-blown MS exacerbation

So, our summer plans are on hold. August is here and the days of summer are slipping away. We are doing the best we can to take care of Smokey, and I upped my water consumption to help the stone pass.

Multiple Sclerosis taught me a lot about being prepared for life’s many tests:

  • Stand tall in the face of fear.
  • Self-advocate by using my voice for better medical care.
  • Ask for help if anxiety, depression, or symptoms of illness are too much to bear.
  • Be gentle on myself by knowing it’s okay to have bad days. Crying days. Sick days. ME days.
  • Be sad about sad events. Own that. Work through those feelings and don't try going around them.
  • Remember that life isn’t always fair. Bad things do happen to good people.

And it’s okay to write a sad post once in a while without feeling guilty about it. I am as human as the next person and, quite simply, life happens to everyone. I am being my authentic self.

Realities beyond our control

What I learned by living with MS is helpful, but in the end, life can present us with harsh realities that are beyond our control. Like Smokey's incurable cancer and repeated kidney stones that (for me) are mostly genetic.

And the unpredictable disease I've lived with for three decades. MS.

I wish there were cures for everything so I (and millions of sufferers worldwide) could return to whatever normal may be. I miss the magical feeling of summer.  Until then, I’ll remain superstitious, and hope that someday I’ll have one summer that’s drama-free.

I can dream, can’t I?

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