A letter to myself a year ago

A letter to myself a year ago

Dear Kerri,

Tomorrow you’ll go to the Emergency Room because your doctor will tell you to. You’ve been worried all weekend about the blood in your urine. Really worried. You’ve been online and all you can see is that blood usually means a UTI. Sometimes runners have blood in their urine. Rarely, it means bladder cancer.

But this is a lot of blood. You know deep down that you don’t have a UTI. But it feels like a Lifetime, made-for-television melodrama to consider that you might have cancer. You feel neurotic to even imagine that scenario.

You just told your husband that you’re worried. You are out of town, and you decide not to go to the local ER. You tell your husband that you’re afraid they’ll admit you. You’ll just go to the doctor tomorrow when you get home.

You know, but you don’t know.

Tomorrow afternoon when you go to the ER, when they finally admit you to the hospital five hours later, the whole nightmare will officially begin. The tests, the questions, the unknown, the procedures, the surgery, the wait, the results, the treatment.

All of it begins tomorrow. Here’s what I wish I could tell you.

Breathe. Take a moment to fall back into the arms of the universe. You know how to take risks. You’ve taken them all of your life. This time, take a chance on believing in yourself.

You already know that doctors and hospitals can fail you. You already know that people, such as your mom, can die because of arrogance and neglect.

You already know that the foundation under your feet is unstable. You know that control is an illusion.

You have spent your life believing in other people, investing your confidence and enthusiasm in students. You remember Deborah, the student who could barely write a paragraph without help, who asked you to work with her outside of class.

You and Deborah worked together for hours over many semesters to bring her writing to the college level. You believed in her, and you told her that. You loaned her your enthusiasm and faith and she returned it with hard work and persistence. She ended up in graduate school.

Why not believe in yourself this time? Believe that you are up to this challenge, that you can face it, and you can reach out to others for help, insist on quality care.

You have family and friends who love you, who each bring their own gifts to the world. Have the confidence to accept their care and to let it carry you over.

It’s ok to accept their strength, to let them love you and loan you their enthusiasm and faith. You know how to return it with your hard work and persistence.

Believe in yourself, Kerri. Believe that people out there--a patient navigator, a young, earnest urologist, a support group, a boss, a neighbor, a counselor--believe that these people see you as worthy of their best, of their compassion and knowledge. They will help you, and they will be glad to do it.

Believe that you can change, that you can quit smoking and learn to relax. Believe that you can forgive yourself for your failures and weaknesses.

You bring many gifts to this world, too. You’ll fight like hell, you’ll resist, and you’ll be relentless. You’ll read everything and you’ll learn everything. You’ll reach out.

Believe that you don’t deserve this and that you are not being punished.

Tomorrow evening, as the hospital worker wheels you to your room, he’ll say, “I’m sorry that you’re going through this. I know how hard it is because I was in the hospital a lot this year. Hang in there.”

You will always remember his kindness and you’ll never know his name.

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