I’ve spent the past two weeks at Mayo Clinic- the nation’s #1 hospital- in Rochester, Minnesota. To begin, imagine a city purely built around a hospital. But not just any hospital- a medical mecca where desperate sick (and mostly quite old) people travel in search of answers. As you walk down the street, you see shops selling wheelchairs, toilet seat raisers, fake hair, and ostomy supplies. You’ll also pass a neurological recovery house, lung transplant home, and a Ronald McDonald House that has seen better days. Your eyes will light up upon seeing an IHOP, but you’ll quickly realize that this is an International House of Prayer, not pancakes. Upon entering any Mayo lobby, you’ll find a 90-year-old man playing Phantom of the Opera, or perhaps an even heavier piece, on the piano. What a great post-graduation vacation destination!
Having stumped the brightest minds at the University of Chicago, Northwestern, and Emory, I had been toying with the idea of applying to Mayo for quite some time. In my head, if medical relief for my puzzling autoimmune conditions existed, I would find it at Mayo. I was counting down the days until my trip there (probably said by no one else, ever!) as I was filled with hope that I would leave feeling better. As it grew nearer, however, I began to feel more and more anxious- what if they didn’t have any answers? What if I had blindly placed all my faith in getting better, in enjoying my summer, in having fun, in being happy- all in the hands of a few doctors whom I had yet to even speak with? These worries certainly crossed my mind, but I kept telling myself that I just had to make it until Memorial Day. Once I was at Mayo, all would go up from there. Hope persisted.
But it rapidly declined…
From how I set the scene, you can probably infer that the depressing environment did not help me cling onto this hope. Nor did participating in a class to learn how to use a device for an overnight medical test, in which we signed in by date of birth, and my classmates were all born in the 1930s. Nor did getting an excess of IVs, collecting my urine in a huge jug and carrying it around for 24 hours, or- perhaps best of all- drinking barium (which I definitely do not recommend!), getting barium paste injected into my rectum, climbing up steps to a portable toilet atop what might resemble a lifeguard chair, and having three technicians watch and take photos of me as I try to pass the barium into the toilet- fun stuff! All of this, coupled with the doctors’ current thoughts that most of my symptoms stem from a progressive connective tissue disease for which there is no treatment for, have certainly tested my hope.
I have felt more hopeless than ever before, but I just can’t shake all the hope out of me. I don’t know what logical, scientific, religious, or spiritual reasons I have to maintain hope- but I do. It’s kind of like my own version of Nike, Just Do It: Hope, Just Have It.
Barack Obama sums up my thoughts well- “I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.”
Perhaps it’s fitting that my new comfort object is a rock.
Stay stubborn, hope.