Today I want to write about the few days I spent with some of the most amazing girls a couple of weeks ago following the weekend of Get Your Guts in Gear. Last year at the event, I barely made it to the end so the idea of having two friends stay over with me Sunday night, and then venturing into New Jersey the next morning with no sleep and barely any food in me was a lot to take. But these girls (two of whom I was meeting for the first time this trip!) showed me what real friendship was.
Before I get into it a little more, here is how we all connected.
I connected with Mallory ten years ago through a website called www.jpouch.org after my mom pushed me to poke around on the site to see that there were others who were around my age dealing with similar issues. Mal and I quickly discovered our surgeons were part of the same practice and following her first surgery, I went to visit her at Mt. Sinai Hospital. We kept in touch over the years and then when I saw her and Sara Ringer were mutual friends on facebook, it opened the door for us to catch up even more.
I have mentioned Sara (Sadie) a lot. She is the girl who writes the blog www.inflamedanduntamed.com, and whose open and honest account of what life is like as an IBD patient allows so many people to see that they aren’t alone with their feelings about this disease. We connected so much over the internet but I had no idea how it would be when we met. Needless to say, I have no idea what life was like without this girl. Sara IS my sister (although a blonde one). Having someone in my life that just gets it without needing the long drawn out explanation has been invaluable to me this past year. Sara has also introduced me to some wonderful people.
Like Jaime. There was some humor going around facebook about the humira commercials and I remember Sara saying “my friend Jaime loves WHAT IF” too. We started getting acquainted, mostly about the usual IBD things that you would a person you are just getting to know online. Until I wrote a post about something a little more personal that really only touched the surface about what I was trying to say. But it was enough for Jaime to text me, ask me a couple non-invasive questions, tell me briefly she had gone through something similar in her life and that she was here if I wanted to talk. And we did talk about it… for a long time. She was the first person who I did talk openly about it with, after only weeks of knowing her.
And Beth. Oh Beth, my friend who has now made me look at “sprinkles” and think JIMMIES. Sara had added this girl to our closed group on facebook, who she had also met on www.jpouch.org. Beth is a strong girl who has always stuck to her guns about everything since I’ve known her. She is confident in who she is and what she knows is right. Beth has opened my eyes and taught me a tremendous amount. We have been faced with certain situations as a group where I have rationalized away what I knew to be the truth and therefore, I have allowed various things to happen that shouldn’t have. Beth has been the one who has been our advocate from the very beginning. Beth has shown us what we should and shouldn’t put up with from the moment things started unraveling. No excuses. Beth just tells it like it is and while I know that will never be my personality, I am so incredibly grateful to have a sister who is just like that.
The few days I spent with these girls were incredible. It was uplifting. They gave me hope. It allowed me to feel “normal” again.
For so long, I was so embarrassed about my body and had to hide who I really was but spending time with these incredible ladies made me see that I never really had to do that at all.
We stayed at Mal’s house who insisted we all had the foods we liked and could eat so that we were all comfortable.
I actually wore a bathing suit for the first time since I had my ostomy! Thank you Beth for letting me borrow one : )
We had a surprise Bachelorette/ Birthday party for Mal
This was a huge couple of days for me for a lot of reasons. Not only did I finally get to meet and hang out with ALL of the girls who I do call my sisters but I realized that I don’t have to be ashamed of who I am, and don’t need to worry so much about what other people think. I can eat what I want and when I want, I can wear a bathing suit and if my ostomy shows it does, and I can just be me.
Prior to the weekend I was really stressing out about a lot of things. I was worried about being responsible for other people especially because of how debilitated I was after Get Your Guts in Gear last year. But the weeks leading up to us all hanging, I really saw how much my friends understood and were doing anything and everything they could to make it easier on me. I think I was so accustomed to having to always pretend to be okay and act as if I am able to handle everything with everyone in my life aside from my parents that I wasn’t used to being able to stand up and say “this is too much” or “this isn’t working for me.” I realize now that with the right people in your life, you can say those things and they will understand and plans can be adjusted accordingly.
Mal, Sara, Jaime and Beth… thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping to restore my faith in humanity. It has been a godsend to have you girls in my life over the past however many months it has been. You all will never know how much those few days meant to me, and have helped me to realize so much about myself, and also change my perspective about the world.
“Friendships multiply joys and divide griefs.” H.G. Bohn