Sunday, January 20, 2008

Being Eight

This is chapter 3 in my history.

The eigth year of my life had was a major turning point. In the few summers prior I had went to CF camp. A week up in the mountains with kids like me. Kids who took pills with every meal, kids who got thumps, kids who were thin as rails. I was one of the healthiest there. I had a window on what my future may be. I saw kids who took more pills, had CF Related Diabetes (CFRD), and the most fascinating to me, kids on nebulizers. I remember in my childhood naiivete, telling my parents that I would never need them, that I was going to stay healthy forever.
My parents never sugar coated what CF meant. Unlike so many others that I know, my parents never hid any facts from me about CF, not even the mortality factor. I knew CF was deadly. I knew I would have it for life. I knew that I wouldn't get old. But I was also eight... and things like that were beyond my level of true comprehension. Even though I knew, but didn't understand, I am forever thankful that my parents didn't hide anything from me. There are too many that found out CF is fatal from a teasing kid, an encyclopedia, or some news article. I got it from the people I love and trusted the most. But even that didn't make the blow of understanding come easily.
I don't even remember when it happened. Only that I was eight and that I was in third grade. A young girl that I had met at camp that summer, Amanda, was very sick, along with her sister. Amanda was my age, but her and her sisters time on earth was short. I don't know which one died first, or how close together that they both died, but I know one died closely after camp that summer. I think it may have been Amanda. Being so incredibly close in age, the same illness... it hit me. It took awhile... I'm not even sure how much longer after I found out... but I broke down. I remember very little about this time of my life. When I try to remember all I see is blankness and feel fear, panic, and sadness fill my chest. So I will recount some of what my mother told me about what happened.
I was at school, when suddenly I broke down crying. My teacher figured out that it was something unrelated to school and called my mother. I was scared out of my mind. The reality of "fatal" had hit me. I may have even went home from school that day. For about three weeks the usual bubbly, happy, loud Talana was gone. She was weepy, sad, despondent. I cried a lot, I needed a lot of hugs and quiet time. I was a shell of myself. School was hard, home life was hard, I stopped both inside and out. I now understood phrases like "average life expectancy of 25", "progressive", and "incurable". Before I knew them... then I understood. It was a lot for an eight-year-old.
The last part though, I remember. It was a sunny day. The sun was setting between the trees over the creek. I was standing in our driveway looking at it. I looked up at the sky. I turned and watched my father work in the garden, heard my mother in the kitchen. And suddenly it was okay. I couldn't change any of those phrases that made my heart so heavy. I couldn't bring back any of the children that had died of CF. But I could live. I could run, play, laugh, smile, and love. I would be okay... I was alive, so I may as well live. I walked up to my dad in the garden and gave him a hug, full of life. It was my way of telling him that I was okay.
Morbidity is a concept that shouldn't be so profoundly understood by an eight-year-old child, but that is the reality of CF. I also remember not being able to remember the past few weeks right after I "woke" up. My mind blocked it from me almost immediately. A blessing, maybe. I'm not sure.
I can't say that I've always had a rosy attitude since then... but in moments that profoundly changed my life, that ranks high. It's a part of me, something that CF caused that made me different than everyone else. As traumatic as it was, in some ways it was also a gift. I understood how precious life was. It changed how I approached so many things. It made me a smarter person.


Meredith said...

Wow! You certainly have been through and seen a lot at such a young age. God only gives us what we can handle and he thought that by blessing your mom and dad with you and the CF disease, he knew they could handle it and that one day you would grow up to be a beautiful young woman. He also knew you would touch so many others with this disease and be able to reach out to them in ways we couldn't. He has blessed you in such a manner and he will continue to pour out his love and blessings upon you. You are a child of God and made by him, in his perfect manner. I know God has so much in store for you and your future! What wonderful parents you have! Meredith/Orlando FL

Dancing65Roses said...

I don't think my CF hit me until I was about 16... but my parents didn't sugar coat anything either... I really enjoy reading your blog. It's like reading my own story.

Leslie said...

Hi! I just came from Nate's blog. You are so strong and you write so beautifully. I'm adding you to my prayer list and will pray for you each and every day.
God Bless You!

Beverly said...

Thank you for sharing your life as you remember it. It helps me to understand better what Ella is going to face in her future.