Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cycle of Hope

"...suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not disappoint us."
- Romans 5:3-5

My favorite passage from the Bible, and so begins Tricia Downing's new book, Cycle of Hope, arranged according to that passage, and given to me by a good friend. Tricia is an athlete - in reading what she wrote, I couldn't help but compare it to my journey - similarities and differences.

It's an account of her journey after being hit by a car and paralyzed from the chest down. In an instant, she loses what she loves, and as she leaves one hospital, she recalls, "Wait a minute. I am leaving the hospital. I am leaving the place where they put you back together again and make you well, but... I am NOT well. I am never going to be well again." Sounds a tiny bit like when I was diagnosed with MS, realized my dreams of competitive running were gone, and asked the doctor, "So, should I lie down here on the floor and die?"

She was hit by someone - someone caused this. What causes MS? Tricia's life changes in an instant. With MS, my life has been a series of gradual changes over 20 years. Tricia found she could be an athlete while at Craig Hospital. For me it took years before I heard of a program for people with disabilities and got involved again.

I love the "rawness" of Cycle of Hope. It spells real feelings - loss is not easy - relationships change or cease to exist - life is not the same - activities are not the same even when able to be done differently. There's not a sense of "Woo hoo - I can still swim." There is more a sense of, "this isn't the same." People explain that Tricia will still be able to do things - just differently. There is bitterness in being told this, although with time it is realized how much people were trying to help. But the "rawness" of it all is there - too often in stories like this loss is sugar-coated with some kind of "success."

In all of this, I thought of a comparison to my 20 years. 20 years of learning to do things differently. I have an "attack," and perhaps I have to learn how to open the trunk a bit differently because my balance doesn't completely return. A big difference is that I've had little training. I was told by a neurologist to get a power chair. I got a manual chair after talking to friends and knowing I was strong enough. And there it was - the wheelchair - no training on how to use it - enjoy! Hand controls - no guidance there - things have changed now, but I figured out hand controls by myself. So it's different - sudden versus gradual change. Perhaps there is more time to adjust with gradual change. But there is also the chance for people to insert comments about decline when I started to use a wheelchair, rather than being glad that I had the freedom to go further distances again.

Tricia aims to complete an Ironman competition. With MS, I was ecstatic to make it up Vail Pass via handcycle (injuring my shoulder in the process). So there are times of success - remaining an athlete, seeking to conquer things.

And to give continued hope, there is the statement, "life is not measured in hours and minutes, but in heart." That is so true.

We all continue to pursue things we want to conquer. This book shows how to do that - with all the raw hard parts of the journey that can get in the way.

Cycle of Hope, by Tricia Downing. Available at Tattered Cover stores in Colorado, or via Get a copy and read it.


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