It's not. But it might as well be.
On January 23, 2005, at 4:00 a.m. I was awakened by severe pain in my abdomen. After an unsuccessful hour of wishing the pain away, my mom convinced my needle/blood/vein/hospital -phobic self that it was time to go to the emergency room.
Three hours and several unpleasant tests later, I was sent back home.
I woke up again a couple of hours later and got halfway to the bathroom before realizing my leg wasn't working properly. Suddenly I was in such blinding pain that I didn't even know what hurt.
I remember my mom and my brother awkwardly dragging me downstairs half-conscious and my dad stuffing me into the car wrapped in his coat, or maybe my brother's. I remember the horrified concern of the neighbour across the street I hadn't met. I was just home from school for the weekend.
It's hard to say now whether I was outside my body or if I retreated to some corner deep inside, but I know it was from far away that I tried to reassure my dad that I was still there, when he anxiously passed his hand in front of my eyes. I could feel my mom in the backseat, quietly trying not to give way to hysteria.
What hurt was DVT and a pulmonary embolism. A clot in the deep veins of my left leg that reaches from below the knee up to the groin, and a couple of pieces that travelled up through my heart and into my left lung for good measure. I don't know if it was the perplexed doctors (who needed a day and a half to find the massive clot) or just luck that saved me.
What followed was a week in hospital and about a month in bed at home watching my leg swell up to a grotesque and unrecognizable mass twice its normal size, and willing the clock to move faster while I lived from dose to dose of pain medication.
I remember the embarrassment and frustration of being exhausted by a walker-assisted limp down the hallway of the blood clinic. I remember the thrill the first time I was able to get from my bedroom to the bathroom ten feet away without assistance.
Suddenly I was forced to face my fear of needles every couple of days, as the doctors monitored my blood to make sure I was taking the right dose of Warfarin (rat poison). I had never bruised easily, but now I was black and blue at the slightest bump. Once I bit my lip and it just bled and bled. Shave my legs? No thanks.
I (insanely) insisted on returning to school, despite not being able to walk the distance from my apartment across the street to my classes. I just knew if I didn't finish my first year of college, if I didn't at least try, lying around thinking about what was happening to me would just kill me (ha). I was sick of feeling afraid all the time. I needed some distraction.
The night before my first day back, my boyfriend of four years called to say, "I don't think I'm in love with you anymore."
It was Easter when one of the doctors told me that because of the genetic mutation in my blood, I would be on the drugs for life. "You will suffer from internal bleeding and if you get pregnant, you will probably die, and so will the baby." And of course, I can never take birth control again. At 19, it was difficult to absorb.
I was already nursing a broken heart and a broken body, what was I supposed to do with that information?
I remember telling my mom, "I just wish it was 3 years from now." But there was no going around it, I had to go through it.
I threw myself into my schoolwork and finished an honours student. My hematologist decided that it would be just as harmful to keep me on the drugs, as to take me off and run the risk of another clot. So I'm rat poison free.
The ones in my lung have dissolved. The one in my leg is still there, and doesn't let me forget it. I wear a pain in the ass compression stocking every day to keep it from ballooning up. I can't run or crouch or sit for too long. Feeling uncomfortable has become the norm.
I miss my healthy leg. I miss being someone who doesn't wonder if every little twinge in her chest might be a rogue piece of the sinister clot monster lurking in her leg coming back for revenge. I miss the girl I was before. The one who never had her strength tested.
But. I am so happy to be here.
So today is my day to grieve and to celebrate. And tomorrow I'll go on living.
Don't worry, you don't need to send presents.