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Grit is great, but grace is my superpower

How a mid-pandemic medical domino pushed me to reframe and refocus.

Photo Credit Captured Essence Phtography
Photo Credit Captured Essence Phtography

In addition to dealing with the Pandemic I’ve been in a game of medical dominos. And it’s given me some perspective I’m feeling especially grateful for.

Back in August when I was stung by a wasp I found out the hard way (have an anaphylactic reaction) I have a severe allergy. I wrote about that experience here. What was strange (and scary) about my reaction was how severely my blood pressure dropped. When the paramedics reached me I was 60/0 (normal is 120/80). Not only did that not feel great, it was also really dangerous because I was very quickly going into shock, which can be deadly.

The “good” news is that my severe blood pressure drop alerted the allergist to the potential of an underlying condition (in addition to my severe wasp allergy).

GRATITUDE.

When I saw her back in February in addition to the blood work for allergies to all the varieties of bee and wasp, she ordered bloodwork for something called Tryptase. At the time I asked her what that was for, and she told me not to worry about it, that she was just being cautious and we’d discuss it if necessary.

The bloodwork came back middle of March, and she called. The call caught me off guard because I didn’t expect to speak with her again until May when I was scheduled to start going through the desensitization process for my wasp allergy. I had not given a second thought to the Tryptase test.

When she told me the news that I had tested positive and this meant I most likely had a rare blood condition called Mastocytosis, I nearly dropped the phone.

I listened carefully as she told me NOT to Google this – but to instead visit only ONE specific site for information. She elaborated further that I should not be alarmed by the scope of this disease when I do visit said site. She said she suspected I had a mild form – but that it completely explained the severity of my reaction to the wasp sting.

I did Google it. And visit the recommended site. Just because we know better, doesn’t mean we do better. And I did freak out. Because while she said I likely had the mild form … what if it wasn’t? What if I actually had the most severe version (essentially a form of Leukemia). Fear swept over me. Panic. No. No. No.

GRACE. It’s ok. Feel the feelings. It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to be worried. Breathe.

Brief science lesson: Mastocytosis is the overproduction of Mast Cells (immune cells). It’s believed to be a genetic mutation and affects approximately 1/10,000.

So yeah, I’m kind of a unicorn.

Once I came up from my panic, and turned to helpful research, it actually turned out to be a bit of a “missing link”. Not only did this explain my drop in blood pressure, it also potentially explains my chronic acid reflux. It also explained why all bug bites make me welt like I’ve been attacked by a mega bug. Cool. The human body is so cool! GRATITUDE.

I was referred to a blood specialist who would follow up with me for next steps. The lovely specialist phoned me within a few days.

Side note: I was conflicted as to whether hearing from the specialists so quickly was good or bad, but decided to let that go too. GRACE.

He reinforced that I should NOT Google this and that he was fairly convinced I did indeed have a very mild form of this that would really be more of a “lifelong inconvenience” than anything else. But just to be sure…he was sending me for more bloodwork and an abdominal ultrasound to ensure that my spleen and liver were not enlarged (note: I don’t totally understand how they tell if they’re enlarged if they don’t have a baseline, but hey, I’ll go ahead and trust the experts). GRACE.

I was in for an ultrasound within about a week (again, eerily fast, but with the stoppage of all non-vital surgeries I was willing to accept this as good luck). GRATITUDE.

Within a few days my doctor called with the results. While the spleen and liver checked out, the ultrasound revealed a lesion on my liver. The radiologist presumed it to be benign, but recommended an MRI to confirm.

Oy. That can’t be good. She reassured me that it was very likely one of two completely benign things, but it was best to be certain.

What the what?! Why is this happening? Seriously!? Disbelief. Frustration. Anger. Sadness. Fear. GRACE.

I was in for an MRI within a week. Thank you pandemic cancellation of all non-essential surgeries. GRATITUDE.

Later the same day, my doctor phoned me with the results. My lesion was in fact a benign hemangioma (a tumour made up of blood vessels).

I felt a weight tumble from my shoulders and a tension I’ve been holding in my belly unwind. Then I felt a wash of peace come over me.

GRATITUDE.

So, where does this leave me?

I still have a chronic blood disorder called Mastocytosis. I’m still in the process of walking that path. And while it will make allergic reactions a bit scary, it will mostly be a minor inconvenience. Life will go on.

I’m fortunate. And I’m grateful. Beyond words.

And I’m also gifted with some perspective.

I didn’t tell very many people what was going on. I didn’t want to add to their worry burden. This is already a stressful enough time. And there was no point in worrying anyone when we didn’t (yet) know if there was reason to worry.

But there was a cost to not letting people in. There was a cost to me (not letting people in means not having the support that may have helped me). And there was a cost to my family. Because let’s be honest, when we’re in a fear and anxiety stress spiral we’re not generally our “best selves.”

I was edgier and snappier. Thank goodness I have a generous and understanding husband and kids.

As much as I offered myself grace, I also very much employed the grit of “keep calm and carry on.” Push and push harder mentality serves us sometimes, but often not in times of anxiety, worry and stress.

I thought I was “handling” it … and I was. To a degree. And…

Even if you think you’re “handling” it, underneath it might just be gripping you more than you know.

I’ll leave you with this…

Remember that everyone out “there” might be silently gripping more than you (or they) know.

Be gentle, gracious and kind with yourself and others. Grit is great, but grace, it’s a superpower. Spread it generously.

If you’re “in it,” also remember that sometimes grace looks like reaching out, and letting your people help you carry the load. Sometimes that makes all the difference.

Hand on heart, carry on. Hold your loved ones close. Be truly grateful for all that is wonderful and well in your world. Because if you look, there is always something. Gratitude and grace FTW (for the win).

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