I don’t remember what was on my mind early in the day on June 7th, 2014. Probably a gluten-free beer run in preparation for my aunt’s upcoming birthday party. I’m sure I was doing some lamenting about how my boyfriend’s visit to Toronto was quickly coming to an end. I was likely making up my to-do list for our upcoming trip to San Francisco. I wasn’t sure if I could fit in just one more yoga class before we both left. What I am sure of: at no point did I imagine that my life was about to change in a big, big way.
Fast forward 24 hours to my aunt’s birthday party. The whole family is there and it’s complete and utter chaos. Food is flying, children are tearing up the place, people are laughing and having a great time. It’s raining outside, but that doesn’t stop the Greeks. Half of us are outside, sitting on the patio under umbrellas enjoying the beauty of the backyard and each other’s company.
A few hours later, the rain really starts to come down, so we move our outdoor party into the kitchen. More food, more chatting, more chaos. I ask my boyfriend if he would like another beer from the cooler on the deck. I take one step outside and I’m thrown in the air and land straight on my backside.
There is pain, and then numbness. I’m not sure which one scares me more until I realize I can’t feel my legs. I scream “MOVE NOW!” and through sheer will, force myself to flip over on all fours. The numbness retreats, making space for the pain to return. It’s beyond anything I’ve ever felt before. A quieter voice inside my head says “You broke your back,” but I couldn’t really register it.
Someone helps me up and gets me in a chair in the dining room. I can’t sit, so I move to the living room and lie down. Everyone is asking me what they can do to help but I can’t breathe. I can’t move. I can’t talk. The pain is everywhere.
My boyfriend wants to call an ambulance but I won’t let him. He begs and I still won’t let him. I don’t want anyone to make a fuss. The quiet voice in my head keeps telling me: “you broke your back,” but I refuse to listen. I take an Advil. I try to get up off the floor. I try to walk. The pain won’t stop. I give in and ask my dad to drive us to the hospital. I’m not sure how I made the trip. I only remember a blanket of pain so all-encompassing that all I can do is cry the whole way.
Fast-forward a couple of hours and the doctor confirms what my quiet voice knew: I fractured my spine near my L2. I cry when I get the news. The doctor shows my boyfriend how to test my neurological responses for the next few days. Any change and I have to come straight back to the hospital. No trip to San Francisco because I won’t be able to withstand the pain of flying, or have the ability to climb the stairs to my boyfriend’s 3rd floor apartment once we get there. I get a prescription for Percocet and an appointment to see the doctor at the Fracture Clinic in a few days.
We go home and I drown my sorrows in pain killers and mint chocolate chip ice cream bars. My boyfriend tells me he is staying with me until I get better. My heart melts. I ask him if he’s sure. It may take a few months for me to recover I tell him. He says its not up for discussion. My heart melts more.
So begins the summer of 2014.
I could focus on the blur of doctor’s appointments, the hours wasted in the hospital waiting for a doctor who couldn’t be bothered to spend more than 2 minutes with me, swelling so bad that none of my clothes fit, endless sleepless nights worried I would wake up paralyzed, more pain than I ever want to feel again, more drugs than I ever want to take for the rest of my days, frustration, exhaustion, and enough tears to fill one of those lakes left barren by the drought in California.
But I won’t.
Despite how hard these last few month have been, I feel so lucky. I have so much love in my life. Not that superficial, fake, no where to be found when the going gets tough kind of love that we sometimes allow into our lives for fear that there may be nothing else out there.
I’ll do anything and everything for you until you can kind of love. Call me and I’ll come running kind of love. Drop everything and put my own life on hold until you’re back on your feet kind of love. Go out at 2 am to buy you mint chocolate chip ice cream because you’re crying your eyes out kind of love. Cut your toenails for you because you can’t reach your own damn feet kind of love. Hold your hand while you step in and out of the shower every day for 4 straight months because I don’t want you to fall kind of love. Bring the birthday party to you because there is no way we aren’t celebrating kind of love. Wipe away a thousand tears kind of love. Nurturing, gentle, generous, vulnerable, safe, genuine, nothing matters more right now than you getting better love. Love that melts your heart every day.
So dear summer of 2014: I will cherish every moment of you. Thank-you for the opportunity to heal my body and my heart.