The Celebration of Living

“Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

– From Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Alboom, p 82.

Multiple IVs, my "regular" pjs, and a teddy bear for company. Several days into my hospital stay - I'm ready to go home.

Exactly one year ago today – June 28, 2010 – I was admitted to the Emergency Room with a massive Pulmonary Embolism and Deep Vein Thrombosis. It was eight days before I would walk out of the hospital. There have been a handful of major experiences in my 30-year life thus far, that have changed me, have changed how I view the world, and changed how I live my life. 2010 was filled with three of those experiences – and my DVT/PE was the first.

N was deployed, had been since April, and wasn’t expected to return until at least November. Afghanistan was heating up and with one helicopter incident after another, and it would only be a matter of time before our squadron suffered more tragedy and loss. The deployment 2010 was the second experience that changed me – and my Yank. It was hard dealing with my own mortality – and his – while we were half a world away from each other, at the same time.

Being in the hospital with a clot in my lungs, and even bigger clots in my right leg was terrifying. Wondering WHY this had happened – was something else entirely. Finding out how the clot got to my lung – through my heart – left me physically nauseated, and it would be months before I could fall asleep without wondering if I would wake up the next morning. Let me tell you – wandering hospital halls late at night with insomnia (but within range of my nurses’ station, should another clot pass through my heart), promotes a lot of soul searching. I knew that my life would forever be different – I just wasn’t exactly sure how.

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”

-Unknown

The Crossroads of Life - wandering hospital corridors late at night.

I could have never predicted the result, but in a weird way, I’m grateful for the experience. Vanity aside – (because let’s face it), no one wants to have every capillary and vein in their lower leg blown out from the pressure of a groin-to-ankle blood clot – I’m genuinely happier today than I was even a year ago. I know what’s important, understand what truly matters.

I take my time, smell the roses – drive the coastal highway instead of the freeway (preferably with the windows rolled down, sunroof open, blaring loud music). I sing in the car, loudly – and I don’t always roll up the windows or stop singing at red lights when other cars are around. I try new things, do things I wouldn’t normally do “just because”. Who knew I would like Raspberry Bismarks this much? I take pictures – lots of them. I paint and have fun with art, it helps me express myself. I love the person I’ve become, and I tell myself that I love ME daily. And I tell my family and friends that I love them – especially the Yank…he gets it multiple times per day. I buy Rosemary Mint Shampoo and Conditioner from Avaeda – it smells awesome and I love what it does to my hair. And I watch crap TV for fun and unabashedly admit it. I stopped weighing myself, and let myself eat and (sometimes) drink whatever I want. Leucadia Donuts any morning with N is perfect. My clothes still fit; had I know this, I would have enjoyed junk food a lot more when I was racing, and stressed out less about my race weight. I forgive myself constantly – we all make mistakes…and I’m forgiving of others and empathetic – I find that I like people much more as a result. And I’m (usually) a better person to be around… I’m happier.

I listen more, listen A LOT, judge less, and then listen some more – and try to see the beauty in Little Things…. because it’s these little things in life that count, and eventually add up to Big Things. The mundane, every-day life stuff I used to take for granted – has a new meaning, and I’m grateful to be ABLE to do things like run, have coffee in bed (with N, preferably), enjoy a sunset, hug a friend, play my violin, go for a swim, hear the ocean roar and smell the sweet mountain air.  I talk to my sister and my parents more often. And I look at N every day and Thank God, because I know how close I came – we both came – to never seeing each other again. I try to be a better friend, even if I’m forgetful on the Thank You and Holiday Cards (sorry!) – I wouldn’t be me without the many people in my life – I am so grateful. I try to not sweat the small stuff – there is so much, SO much out there that – at the end of the day – doesn’t matter.

I look at the person I used to be and I compare her to who I am today…and I feel like I’m living my life in color. I know what’s important, what is meaningful to me, even though I don’t always know where I’m going. For the first time, I know how to enjoy the ride (even if the trip isn’t fun).

Sometimes I am sad….I am still grieving, and there are a lot of things about my New Life – almost dying from a PE/DVT, my life with Lupus (third experience of 2010 that changed me….my diagnoses in August), being a terminal lifelong coumadin patient, arthritis and loosing the physical ability to do many of the things I love – these things can be very difficult to deal with. I miss training and racing – riding my bike along the coast, sprinting towards the finish line, feeling my heart pound as I wait for the starting gun….stuff that made me feel alive, even if I didn’t always see the rest of my life in color.

But…there is SO much out there – SO MUCH. And I remind myself that each day is a gift, even if I don’t always feel great. I let myself be sad….and the joyful stuff, the happy times are that much greater. They are filled with color, instead of just black and white.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about today – there has been a lot of introspection lately. I suppose the 1-year anniversary of surviving a near-death experience will. There are a lot of people I would like to thank – I wish I could give out massive hugs to everyone…if I could, I would. So, my friends… I’ll return to my standby phrase. It’s true….. Love it while you live it – and everything else is just icing on the cake….

...Or a Raspberry Bismark from Leucadia Donuts. That too.

One year ago today, I was admitted to the ER with a massive Pulmonary Embolism and DVT – I emerged 8 days later with a very different life. But the key in all of this – is that I walked out. Happy Day of Living!

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

– Albert Einstein

Heart ultrasound - undamaged from the clot....and ironically - I think it's grown through this process. Miracles all around indeed!

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7 thoughts on “The Celebration of Living

  1. What an amazing journey you’ve taken Marit. You’ve certainly come out the other side with the brightest, best outlook of all! Not many people could do the same. As always, thanks for the inspiration to make the most of whatever we are handed!! “Happy” one year anniversary!

  2. So beautifully written Marit. Such a journey you’ve been on and you have become an inspiration on how to really live and love life. Thank you.

  3. Gosh Marit I remember that day like it was yesterday. Your post made me all teary-eyed becuase i remembered the last summer and all our skype chats and our lives. xx

  4. GOSH MARIT….I too, of course, remember this day. THIS post is absolutely amazing and really keeps things in perspective for sure. You have learned what is important in life and what really matters — LOVE IT. Thanks for always being a great inspiration. 🙂 x

  5. Marit- I hope we remember all that we learned over the last year. Thank you for sharing your story with me and others. It helped to know another athlete was going through the same thing, and I hope other folks have learned through seeing your change in outlook. All the best! -ST

  6. this is without a doubt the most beautiful blog post I’ve ever read. you are an amazing writer but even more so, an amazing human being for being able to grow so much from such a scary experience.

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