There’s something I lost when I was diagnosed that I still want back. I miss it more than I miss the freedom to act without planning or precaution, or the ability to simply not think about my own safety. It’s hard to explain exactly what it is to someone who hasn’t lost it themselves, but anyone who has lost it will know what I mean, and how it can change your whole life, forever.

What I lost was a faith in my own body. When you know medical horror, or how it feels to be so sick that it doesn’t seem like such a terrible thing to simply stop being, when you know by heart what the inside of a hospital room at four in the morning sounds like, and how you can be suddenly and terribly blindsided by illness in a way that never could have been expected, then you also know with painful clarity that there are no certainties in this life. There is no guarantee that these fragile bodies we all nurture will perform the tasks they are meant to, or that their capacity for perseverance will match that of our souls. It seems like a simple lesson, an obvious one, perhaps, but the difference between knowing these things on a logical level and knowing them on an emotional level is the difference between being told about a picture and seeing it with your own eyes.

And I wish I didn’t know this, yet. I wish I didn’t know what the look in my parent’s eyes was like when they were afraid for the life of their daughter. I can’t unlearn what that look was, though, or what it was like to be in the ICU and have a doctor tell me I was a few hours from dead, or any of the sadness and losses that have come since. Nor can I prevent what is still to come.

What I can do is ring the bells that still can ring. I can celebrate the deep river of love that flows through my life, I can hold the hopefulness of the human spirit up as sacred, and I can be overwhelmed with gratitude.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen