I never knew my life would be taken up in the arms of a frail-looking woman with a mass of mousy brown curls and tossed over the edge of a treacherous cliff. As a child, I had not imagined in my many hours of dreaming that I would watch life as I knew it plummet towards almost-certain premature death. The bottomed dropped out, though. The mousy lady gave me my unexpected diagnosis:
“Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis”, Doctor Minnie announced.
Twelve. I was only twelve years old. I was about to celebrate my thirteenth birthday- become a teenager. I had just finished my first year of cheerleading, too. I could do the best jumps and kicks on my squad. Until a few months ago, when my right knee become violently swollen and inflamed.
“It is the Polyarticular type,” she continued. “As you have seen in the way the pain began in just your knee and then continued to your hands and elbows, this is the kind that travels. It may concentrate in just large joints, or may spread to smaller surrounding joints as well. We can’t be sure until it happens.”
‘More?’ I thought. ‘This is only going to continue?!’
It was like my life flashed before my eyes, the way you read about in books or see in movies. I recalled the best years of my life- the happiest, the most care-free. I was only between the ages of four to eight; these are the years my family and I lived on the edge of acres of wooded splendor. I spent my mornings, days, and evenings running through those woods with my cousins- playing Indian, having foot races, climbing trees. I enjoyed health and youth and vigor like never before.
Like I never would again.
I would frequently revisit these memories after this day. As I laid in my bed crippled from my elbows to my toes in pain that both seared and ached all at once, I would close my eyes and try hard to remember.
The stiffness would lift, I imagined. I tried to recall the feeling of vitality. Oh how it felt for my legs to move beneath me- swift, barely touching the bed of dirt and leaves as I flew noiselessly through the trees. My arms pumped at my sides. My breath coursed through my body, cleansing any unpleasant feelings and supplying me with energy.
My eyes were quick. I looked ahead for any obstacles on the trails I knew by heart. There was the familiar fallen log ahead of me where the path forked. It was time for a decision- make the leap or take the simpler path.
I always chose the leap.
Coming up on the log, I ran faster. I calculated the distances necessary. Nimbly my toes pushed me from the confines of gravity; I was no longer shackled to the earth. Adrenaline pumped as the wind blew through my hair. I flew through air, time, and space…
And landed back in the present.
Only a memory. My life as I lived it and loved it was now only a memory.
It crashed to the stony pit at the bottom of the cliff, and I felt it shatter within my young heart.