Summer 2009 was gone. A second whole summer pirated away by mobs of mutinous white blood cells wreaking havoc with my daughter’s body. Marika had gone under sedation in an altered mental state—as my adoring three-year-old—and at the end of August came out of it, dazed but driven. Fifty-seven days in the hospital. In oblivion, mostly.
“Mom. You’re staring.”
“Sorry. It’s just good to see your eyes open again,” I said, not daring to ask how it felt to wake up near September when she’d lost consciousness in July. Or how it was to discover her friends engrossed in new movies, new music, and new relationships. To have gone to sleep skinny, and then wake up swollen. To find a fresh growth of hair instead of her balding head. To climb to her bedroom after being gone and find things moved, to find a huge pile of mail on the bed that hadn’t been slept in except by her cat that no longer seemed to recognize her. The Rip Van Winkle and Sleeping Beauty stories don’t take into account what it feels like to wake up and find a chunk of your life gone. And I never asked Marika. But much later, I would find her journals and the poem above, Wake Up, and stand in awe of her strength and resolve to pick herself up and build a new life. And when I felt my own losses were too much to bear, I remembered her indestructible hope, and kicked myself to reset my course and carry on.
Marika’s Journal, September, 2009:
I sometimes wonder if it was all a dream. I don’t feel as sick as most people think, but the doctors still advise me to “take it easy” and “lay low,” which makes living normally and finding a job or an apartment even harder. It feels like it was all a dream until I look at my pillbox. Twice a day (usually), I extract a dose of chemicals—poisons—to heal my would-be dying body.
My health has improved, so it’s hard to even believe that I almost died three times, or that a few months ago, my once athletic body required two nurses in order to walk. I’ve had to relearn how to walk many times now. After being sedated for weeks on end, your body forgets, and your muscles shrink. What you’re left with is a bed-ridden, weak, catheter bearing, poor excuse for a human soul, who has a long road of walkers, falls, and chipped teeth ahead of it.
I’m much better now, but I’m not “out of the woods” yet. I may be moving into an apartment with a puppy and starting over where I left my life. It’ll be different now.