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It was February 1, 2022, an overcast day, twenty-eight months since my sign-up to receive hospice care for my diagnosis of Interstitial Lung Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The doorbell rang. It was the hospice nurse practitioner to evaluate my continue participation that occurred every six weeks, given the Medicare protocol for my disease and treatment.

During our last evaluation, my insides had jellied when she said, “Liz, you continue doing so well, perhaps too well. Not much decline since our last being here.” She looked away, then added putting away her stethoscope, “We’ll certify you for another benefit period, then re-evaluate next month. Now, you’re not to worry. We’ll work this out.”

But I did. I still remembered the compassionate response of the ER doctor that Halloween morning, 2019, “You’ve come to the right place, Liz. From here on out, palliative care will serve your medical needs. No more going to hospitals for tests. No more doctors’ offices.”

Only after the nurse left did I learn the difference between hospice and palliative care: Patients not ill enough to qualify for hospice and too ill to benefit from home care services. Perhaps that’s where I belonged.

Yet, hospice did pick me up.

“I said this would work out,” the nurse practitioner said, her eyes smiling behind her mask. “We’re going to hold on to you, after all. That new medication for your breathing warrants our continued surveillance.”

I smiled, another experience of God doing for me what I could not do for myself.

I can’t do this anymore! I admitted to myself, gripping my cane. Like stricken puppies, my legs, refused to move, despite my commanding them to do so. I was beached, immobile, furious, a storm crashing within me.

I had already checked into the YMCA, was sucking a lemon cough drip, and was standing at my usual start position by the entrance. Ahead of me stretched the wide corridor; its recessed lighting reflecting upon the floor had helped me maintain balance the four months I’d been coming here. My helper waited for me to begin my customary walk toward the gym and the exercise room, her shadowing each step lest I fall.

That was three days ago, an experience that left me floundering in self-pity, one of the faces of grief.

It’s all about acceptance: my terminal illness has taken another hit—and there have been many—but not as pronounced as this one: Weakness like I’ve never experienced, shortness of breath that worsens speech production, and muscle loss that rouses issues of disease gnawing away at my body, despite still eating full meals prepared by helpers or brought by friends.

Yes, there’s change. Rather than use my cane, I rely upon my wheeled walker to get about—It’s slower but still works. Happily, I’m still able to blog the ongoing experience of my terminal illness, and if appropriate, I will return to the Y’s NuStep and exercise my legs—not to walk as before, of course, but to keep going, one day at a time with Precious God’s help. Besides, I’ve friends there.

For nearly two years, I have been blogging the experience of my terminal illness, Interstitial Lung Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis, its symptoms creeping along like an inchworm in high grass, on holiday, with no incentive to hurry. Weeks have morphed into months; months, into years. Slowly, I learned that the disease would have its way with me. I could only witness its symptoms as they occurred.

This being the case, I resorted to head-writing my blogs despite practicing acceptance and surrender and following my daily self-care routine. But my unconscious need to control the uncontrollable, the death of my body, held full sway. My heart was elsewhere.

But last night’s prayer or dream seems to have changed things. My whole body warmed as I heard myself say from the heart, “To You, I return my body. I’m so grateful.” My whole being stirred. I felt free in a new way, and still do—at least today. Gone is the residual anger that had clung to my psyche like sticky spider webs. In no way could I remove them. Another has.

This new shift in attitude is critical for the remainder of my life. Whatever new symptoms there will be, and they’ll probably be many, my choice for fuller Life has been made. In the meantime, I have the next twenty-four hours to look after, with my heart seeking guidance.

My gratitude knows no bounds.

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