It was 27 weeks ago tonight that I went to bed for the last time with two legs, two feet, and ten toes. I laid in a hospital bed, alone *cough*, contemplating what it would be like for me at the same time the next day.
After years of catastrophic blood clotting throughout my body but particularly in my left leg, the toes and left foot were dying and there was nothing that had been tried that had even remotely seemed to slow the clotting let alone stop it. I’ve failed on every class of
rat poison anticoagulant available on the market and approved for my disease, chemotherapy to try to kill enough of the B-cells in my bone marrow to reduce the antibodies that cause my blood to clot, plasmapherisis to remove ALL my plasma and substitute synthetic plasma instead (4.5-5L to 3L exchange after a machine that looks like it came out of the original Star Trek set sucks close to half of your blood out of your body over the course of about a minute and a half), and 7 vascular surgeries in about a year. I’ve stumped some of the best blood doctors on this continent and been the subject of numerous discussions by specialists about how to solve a problem like Maria, er, Gwen. More than 18 months before every medical professional familiar with my case decided there was nothing left that could save my left foot and I therefore needed an amputation, I had decided that I was ready to amputate Frank (Frankenfoot, as named by my 4th graders, whose Chief was the illustrious Frankentoe, who always wore a white condom shaped stocking cap).
All of the failed treatments and surgeries were Hell… each and every one.
After the amputation, we already knew I would face a longer road to recovery than most because of the blood clotting condition. No one could have anticipated, however, that the road was going to be as long as it has been already. There was no way to predict the flesh eating infection that caused them to have to shorten my leg only two months after the amputation; had that infection not taken place, I would have started with prosthetics the first week of July. No one could have anticipated that my impeccable immune system would have been able to hide a staph infection and a plant based pathogen in my bones requiring 7 weeks of IV antibiotics and the use of a wound vac. There was no way to predict the sudden onset of further tissue death from three more antibiotic resistant infections that resulted not only in a third surgery in September but also the prescription of 30 more days of 3 separate antibiotics that even Dr. Infectious Disease said he wouldn’t have been able to keep up with or complete. None of those levels of Hell were anticipated or planned for by anyone, even insightful little me.
My health in the last few years has bordered on the bizarre as I descended level by level into different circles of medical Hell comparable to Dante’s worst imaginations (if he only focused on health issues). And as if all that wasn’t enough, I was fired from my teaching position for the offense of being disabled (because being disabled is a terrible inconvenience to some able-bodied among us) while other more personal issues arose like balrogs from the lowest pits of my own Inferno to face me, challenge me, and destroy me.
Little did anyone know I am Maiar of the Valar.
Ah! like gold fall the leaves in the wind,
long years numberless as the wings of trees!
(The beginning of the Quenya poem Namárië written by J.R.R. Tolkien
written in Tengwar, Latin, and English as retrieved from Wikipedia 27 Nov 17…
Because I’m nerdy, er, classically educated and a literary badass like that!)
Man… my literary references are on point lately! Or should I say en pointe? Hmmm…
Anyway, once you descend into the 9th circle of Hell (a la Dante), you come face to face with Dis (the poetic name used for Satan dating as far back as the Virgil’s Aeneid, I know because I translated it) who tortures the lowest of the low:
Those whose treachery was to betray those closest to them using the complete trust they had to get close enough to stab them in the back or betray them with a kiss.
Hmmm… That’s interesting. *cough, what’s this? a golden thread?*
Meanwhile, the Valar may appear to the ignorant as simply fabulously good-looking and incredibly young compared to their chronological years of life *cough cough, golden thread* but they hold the power to create great and beautiful things, see truth before those around them, change shape, and overcome even the most evil of foes.
And the Maiar? Well, they’re simply divine, mysterious, rare, wickedly (incredibly, not cruelly or evilly) insightful and magical, and nigh on impossible to kill.
“Ooo-ee… This is gettin’ go-ood!” she says aloud, letting her Georgia accent come out to play. *several golden threads I see*
Why, oh why, would this Maiar of the Valar have to descend to the 9th circle of Hell to face Dis and his treacherous betrayers while fending off balrogs when ob-vi-ous-ly *cough, golden thread* the fight will be one sided and I will emerge victorious?
Is it so I can learn how to be strong? Read the oldest pieces on here… Not an issue, it would seem.
Is it so I can learn to use my will to work my way through the problem? The tapestries say, “Nope!”
Is it so that I can learn patience and perseverance? *laughs and wipes a tear from her right eye* Clearly you don’t know me personally if you don’t know that I am patient to a fault *gold* and I can persevere through anything *more gold*.
If God only gives us what we can handle, He thinks I’m a fucking badass.
Obviously there isn’t some lesson for me to learn here because I have been well equipped for all of this since before it was an issue. I know what to do and how to do it. The only newness I’ve encountered is comfort level in this new body *gold* and the daily adventures of Gwen *and still more gold*. I have a plan and although I’m not to the countdown yet I’ve accounted for almost everything. Despite everything I’m *cough, hack, gold* mostly carefree. I have a smile on my face and I laugh more than seems reasonable. The areas not seemingly under direct attack in my life are thriving and I’m amazed daily at what is given to me.
. . .
So what am I doing here in this standoff with Dis and the balrogs? If all this isn’t to teach me something, what is the purpose?
Sometimes we go through Hell so that we can learn something and we can grow.
Sometimes we go through Hell so that someone else can learn something *one final gold thread*, can grow, can be inspired or encouraged, or can simply see that there is a future and a hope.
Maybe I am in Hell.
But maybe that’s not such a big deal, though.
Maybe, just maybe, my journey into the Inferno isn’t about me at all but is serving a higher purpose.
Or maybe I just needed the practice to keep myself sharp.