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Lament for Lost Health


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Bethany Sanders

I breathe through my mouth 
so I don’t smell the sickly sweet iron smell.
My hand is clamped down on my arm
Over the needle prick where the IV was pulled from.
The three layers of gauze are soaked and overflowing.
I watch the red stream down over my wrist and fingers,
And I hold my arm out so that the spatters don’t stain my shoes (again).
The nurse rifles frantically through the drawers.
“This shouldn’t be happening.”
I hear the crackle of strain in her voice.
“You just got a platelet transfusion.”
I nod numbly, and tell her, 
“This just happens, some of the time.”
I look at the puddle spreading on the ground.
It is the brightest red, strangely thin,
Like water with red food coloring in it.
I wonder how much is my blood
And how much is blood of the donor 
(oddly intimate and distant, 
to share blood with a stranger).
The blood was cold coming in through the tube.
It chilled me during the waiting.
Now it’s hot, heated by my heart’s chambers,
Only to grow cold again on the floor.

I feel like a tree rotting from the inside out.
A tree, because I can do nothing but wait
the heartbeats, minutes, hours, days, months.
I listen to my heart thudding in my ears
and feel a weariness in every cell,
A strange aching without end.
It tastes like death.
On the days when it feels worst
My husband tells me that I “smell wrong”
And he looks frightened.

Where are you, God?
I want assurance that my life won’t be only pain.
That if I am to live I will be healed.
That if I am to die it won’t be prolonged.
And that I won’t live just to move 
from pain to pain to pain.

No assurances come, only:
I too know what it feels like to bleed. 
And my heart remembers that 
Jesus knows what it feels like to die.

. . . . . .

My bone marrow has grown back.
But I am still fighting my health.
Will this ever end?
I want assurance that I can live a normal life.
That someday I will feel as young as I am, again.
Assurance that I am not a lightning rod 
that draws pain and sorrow.
That I will feel joy and not be afraid.

I was born with thirst, with the necessity to drink,
And yet when I drink the cup handed to me,
I find the water laced with ashes.
Will I always drink ashes, God?
I hear no assurances, only:
I too drank the cup of ashes.

Edited by Bethany Sanders
Re-reading it I realized that the passage of time isn't clear, so I added a space/dots to show that two time periods are shown.
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Renee Mathis
25 minutes ago, Bethany Sanders said:

 

I feel like a tree rotting from the inside out.
A tree, because I can do nothing but wait
the heartbeats, minutes, hours, days, months.
I listen to my heart thudding in my ears
and feel a weariness in every cell,
A strange aching without end.
It tastes like death.
On the days when it feels worst
My husband tells me that I “smell wrong”
And he looks frightened.

 

Oh Bethany...oh... My first thought, the first thing that came to mind was Emily Dickinson's line "pain has an element of blank." I didn't even realize I'd memorized that line, but then I realized that you have filled in those blanks. You have helped me see what I could not have seen based on my own experience. My second thought... I'm praying for you.

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Bethany Sanders

The context of this is that I had a rare autoimmune disorder kick in a year or two ago. My immune system targets and destroys my bone marrow (it's called aplastic anemia). The onset wasn't immediately obvious, because the issues were happening on the inside, so I ended up in the ER in March 2020 with bone marrow failure. Bone marrow makes your blood--red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets--so I was severely anemic, immune compromised, and I had a critically low level of platelets.

The first 2/3rds of this lament is about my experiences last year with bone marrow failure. I had 18 blood transfusions and 12 platelet transfusions, and we sometimes had issues with bleeds from the needle prick after we took out the IV. Those bleeds weren't the scariest thing that happened (by far), but it's an image my mind keeps circling back to for some reason.

The last third of the Lament is current. We reversed the bone marrow failure with treatment, so now we're just trying to keep my autoimmune disorder in check. This has been more complicated than I'd hoped it would be. I'm still processing through the events of last year, and what the disorder might mean for me long term.

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Bethany Sanders

@Renee Mathis Thank you!

3 minutes ago, Renee Mathis said:

Emily Dickinson's line "pain has an element of blank."

I've never heard that line before. Yes, that feels very true.

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Guest miriam kluthe

I also have two auto immune diseases, diabetes and celiac so I know what it is like. Yours sounds really scary. With my diabetes, every 2 days I get a new site so that I can get insulin and live. With celiac, I can't eat anything with wheat in it. I have had diabetes for 7 years but compared to you it seems like nothing. I will keep you in my prayers. Keep getting better! 

P.S. If you want to know more about diabetes and celiac, you can look it up, or message me back to let me know.

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Bethany Sanders

Hi Miriam Kluthe, thanks for praying for me. Diabetes and celiac are hard conditions to live with, that sounds tough!

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Guest Cindy Ragsdale

I just re-read this, Bethany. So I'll say again . . . awful and beautiful and powerful. The blood on the floor . . . "I wonder how much is my blood and how much the blood of the donor" . . . is too specific and real to not see.

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Barb Knuckles

I love this, @Bethany Sanders, but you know that. It is hard for me to respond. The pictures you paint are so vivid. I brings me to tears but I rejoice that this carries some of the pain for you. It helps to transfer some of the burden to someone big enough to carry it. There is solace for me in knowing that you are sitting with the one who knows your suffering so intimately, who never looked or looks away. 

(Bethany's mom)

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Reagan Dregge
On 3/9/2021 at 10:09 AM, Bethany Sanders said:

But I am still fighting my health.

I cried all the way through your beautiful psalm, Bethany, but this line caught me unaware. Even though my allergy to dust mites which triggers asthma isn't as life-threatening as your autoimmune disorder, I do feel as though my body is fighting itself every time. What a Friend we have who knows what it feels like to bleed, to be unable to breathe, to die.

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