Kittie Howard

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Inside Myself - A Christmas Memory; Blog on Hiatus until Jan. 5th.

Updates:  My husband and I will leave for New Orleans early Tuesday morning, returning to Virginia in early January. We're driving. I am soooo looking forward to tucking into dat gumbo and slurping dem oysters!  There's no laptop on this trip.  However - surprise! - I'll be tweeting.

See the little Twitter sign in the sidebar?  Yep, that's me, Ms. Gadget, OMG, who woulda thunk it?  Anyway, I'm not saying now but will tweet our stops en route.

Before today's Christmas Memory, I want to thank each of you for being who you are and for enriching my life.  I've learned so much from you and am humbled by your graciousness and sense of humanity.  Yes, there is much that is wrong in the world.  However, when I read your posts, comments, and e-mails - and also when I go t the grocery, the laundry, the post office and other places in my daily world - I am pleasantly reminded that there is much, much more goodness, so many more blessings, in the world.

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This is the fifth Christmas Memory, a personal one that touches a time when I learned a forever lesson about what is important in life.  We all need clothing, food and shelter, but when one learns one's life could slip away, it doesn't really matter if the purse on the counter is a Louis Vuitton or a burlap bag, if the house is a mansion or a yurt, if a Morton's steak or brisket fills the dinner plate.

Many of you asked what went through my mind when I saw the refugees from Darfur and the drought in Sudan.  These refugees didn't have a burlap sack, a yurt or brisket.  They had the haunting look of death.  The scene was so enormous, so destitute, so beyond the definition of 'poor', I knew I witnessed a holocaust of human misery and felt a helplessness that lingers.  When George Clooney lobbies for something to be done about Darfur, I get it, I so get it.

I say the helplessness lingers because I've come to believe that no one can go through life without a period when the chips are down.  Cinderella is a fairy tale.

However, for the majority of refugees from Darfur, the chips had not only fallen; they had disappeared.

When there is hope, there is light.  But even in the darkness, light can shine from within.  This light can sustain one through the toughest of times, because what is 'tough' is relative to each of us.

In the fall of 1978, I began to feel as though I was dragging and, hard as I tried, couldn't seem to get my mojo up and running.  I went to the doctor and returned a couple of days later for the results of basic tests.
After being ushered into his office, the doctor motioned for me to sit down.  When the nurse closed the door, he said to me, "Well, if you're going to get it, you've got the best of the lot: Hodgkin's Disease (cancer), two to three years to live."

My white blood cell count was 22,900, a very high and dangerous number.

A second doctor's opinion disputed, but did not negate, the Hodgkin's Disease diagnosis. There was a possibility I had some type of infection from a flea bite.  My condition was to be monitored.

My husband and I had returned from the Middle East, where we had lived a year each in Egypt and Israel.  Apparently there's a desert flea, to which Bedouins are immune, but to which others are susceptible.  I had been in the desert many, many times.

For about a year, I lived in medical limbo.  Each Monday, I'd have blood drawn; each Wednesday I'd return to the doctor's office for the results.  As much as I fought - diet, positive thoughts, and so on - the numbers remained the same, high and dangerous.  Also, I couldn't gain weight but easily lost weight.  I was pencil thin, drawn and tired-looking.  It was a tough, tough time, a time when getting dressed in the morning meant resting to gather strength for the next task, a time when I had to dig really deep within myself to remain focused, that I was going to beat this thing and that wasn't going to happen if I didn't keep at it.

In November, 1979, Bethesda Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, ran every test possible.  Results lifted the curse: No one knew what I had, but I did not have Hodgkin's Disease.

Blood drawn the first week in December showed, for the first time, the white blood cell count had dropped by 200 points, with another drop the next week, and another drop the following week.

I remember sitting in the living room Christmas week and staring at the Christmas tree until the tears and holiday lights blurred into a grateful peace.

My husband and I hadn't been married that long, didn't own much beyond the basics (including a $2.00 garage sale recliner that leaked its innards when opened), but we had each other and our health.  We were rich beyond words.

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From our house to yours, the warmest of Holiday Greetings.  May the light within you shine brightly now and throughout the New Year! XOXO Kittie