As the autumn leaves fall to the ground and the landscape is abundant in red, yellow, and orange, the return of fall has an additional meaning to someone who is chronically ill. It marks another year battling disease, it marks another year further from a once healthy life, and it signifies that life keeps moving even when our bodies have slowed down.
The changing of seasons can be a time of rejuvenation for many, as we look forward to various holidays and milestones. But it can also be a painful reminder to those of us battling disease that we can’t go back and experience healthy again. The memories are wonderful and painful all at the same time, as we yearn for the life that was once ours.
It’s been fourteen years since the onset of my symptoms, and each year as the leaves begin to fall, I think back to my first year in graduate school as I began earning my masters degree while coping with a change in physical ability. I remember asking for a handicap placard so that I could drive on campus. I remember using the bus to minimize walking whenever I could. I remember going from the one people couldn’t keep up with, to the one who couldn’t keep up with the world.
But then I look out at my beautiful surroundings and as I take in the colors and the brisk air of my favorite season, I feel thankful to be alive. Life is so very fragile, and here I am, breathing this autumn air, watching my children have a wonderful childhood, and with my parents living only a couple miles away. Life is good; yes, it could be better, but I’m lucky to have made it through fourteen autumns still being able to find the good in each day. Always remember, if you search hard enough, there is beauty to be found, even on the most difficult days.