A 30th birthday should be special. It’s a milestone that should be celebrated. My 30th birthday came and went with little fuss. It certainly wasn’t what it “should” have been; More importantly, it wasn’t what it “could” have been.
On December 21st, the day before I was set to leave to head home for the holidays, I went to work, as usual, and afterwards headed over to my friend’s place for our annual Christmas dinner (pizza this year) and gift exchange. That evening I had noticed that a pain would shoot through my neck and into my head whenever I bent down. Prone to headaches, migraines, and suffering from stiffness that I attributed to sitting at a desk job, with poor posture, for 6 years, I made note of it but brushed it off as a long day.
The next day I had a flight to catch but not before an early morning brow and nail appointment. It was at the salon that I had first noticed that I could barely turn my neck either way – I was super stiff, and I was just thankful that I was flying home rather than taking the bus. Once again, I brushed off the stiffness as occupational, or perhaps a slight injury from being jerked the wrong way on the streetcar. I assumed that I would get home, relax, and wake up feeling much better. I certainly was wrong.
The night I flew in my brother and I headed to watch the newest Star Wars movie in DBox (motion seats) 3D. I was nauseous the whole time, however the vibration of the seats seemed to sooth my neck stiffness a bit – “Free massage!”, I joked.
At this point, I should note that I had been throwing up for about a month or so, nearly every day. As someone who suffers from Ulcerative Colitis, I chocked this up to a new symptom of the illness. The problem with suffering from an underlying, chronic illness is that you essentially attribute most new health symptoms to it, especially when they fit the bill.
As the days went on, the stiffness quickly turned to pain that went through my neck and into the base of my skull. Fortunately for me, my parent’s home is equipped with every medical gadget you could imagine, and I love them for it! They have what’s called a TENS/EMS machine, which essentially sends little jolts of electricity to your muscles – An odd sensation, however when applied to my neck and shoulders, a bit of a relief. My mother would lovingly apply that, and I’d place a warm Magic Bag over it nearly ’round the clock. I propped myself up in the comfy recliner and hoped for the best every day.
I heartbreakingly missed my nephew’s 7th birthday party. Missed Christmas Eve at my father’s place, and nearly missed Christmas dinner as well. Christmas Eve, I lied awake all night. My niece was sleeping with me, and I was so worried to wake her. The pain and stiffness was horrible. I tried to quietly grab a heating pad for my neck, and my niece stirred awake, simply to sleepily ask, “Auntie, will you hold my hand while we sleep?” My heart melted. I lied there trying to soak in one of the sweetest moments of being an Auntie, while simultaneously waiting for her tiny grip to loosen as my pain got so severe.
Eventually, I quietly ducked into the bathroom to see if a hot shower would help. It didn’t. In that moment, I was ever so tempted to just curl up on the bathroom floor and cry myself to sleep. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, and beyond sleep-deprived. This was my one visit home the entire year; My one vacation that I had waited an entire year for – This was not how it was supposed to go.