I received the 29 Gifts book from a sweet friend/coworker. I don't think she could possibly understand how I would connect to Cami's story.
I myself suffer from an autoimmune disease, Sarcoidosis. I am currently in remission and am doing very well. I too felt betrayed by my own body and not "good enough" for all of the support and hard work taken on by my husband. For almost 2 years, he was the primary breadwinner, took care of the kids and household chores and supported me. My parents would take us in on the weekends, while my husband worked and take care of us. I also had the offer of help from numerous friends and coworkers and wouldn't accept it. I felt guilty and ashamed.
I loved my job, but wasn't well enough to put in the hours required to do it. I took weekly chemotherapy injections and high doses of steroids daily. I was in intense pain and became dependant on narcotic pain medications. After a few months of being off work, my boss told me they could no longer hold my position for me. While I understood why, I was devastated. The drug regimen I was on left me feeling like a shell of the person I really was. I felt alone, depressed and at times hopeless. I decided to return to work after being off for 7 months to a part time secretarial position in the same department. I would only work 4 hours a day and they would be in the afternoon, when I typically felt a little better. I truly believe that me taking the focus off of me and my illness helped me to heal. While it was very difficult some days just to take a shower and put on my scrubs, once I got there, I was determined to make it through my shift. Gradually my strength and endurance started to get better and a few months later, was told by my doctors that I was in clinical remission. There were no new tumors and the ones that had been there had shrunk to a very small size. My hope began to return and I then decided that I was going to wean myself off of all of the medications. While my doctors advised against it, I knew I had to do it. I began with the chemo agent, then the steroids and then the narcotics. The narcotics were by far the hardest ones to eliminate. My body had become so dependent after being on them for 2 years, that I was in horrible pain, and didn't sleep for several days in a row, despite taking Ambien every night. I knew I was going through a detox and that it would get better. It took about 3 months, but once they were out of my system, I haven't looked back! I now only take Ibuprofen for pain. I went back to the doctor in September for a checkup and CT scan and there was no new sign of the disease. I was still in Remission!
I decided last Summer, that while I was working part-time, I would make the most of it and return to school to finish my nursing degree, something I have wanted to do for many years. I wasn't sure how I was going to pay for my tuition and fees, but knew I would find a way. I finished my first semester, with 10 credits and a 4.0. Education is a gift for me and a good example for my children. While it is difficult to work and go to school in the evening and not have dinner with my family most nights, I have tried to find a way to make the weekends and the mornings with my family memorable. We play board games, talk, watch movies, bake and cook together. We have had to make sacrifices at home to be able to run our household on a smaller income and pay for the necessary school expenses, but know they will pay-off in the future.
I will begin giving my 29 gifts tomorrow, Monday, January 3rd, 2011.