It's hard to believe but October marks the two year anniversary of my "Yakes AVM experience." This upcoming trip will be my 20th alcohol embolization. It just doesn't seem like that much time has gone by or that I have made that many trips out to Denver. I guess that is a good thing though. Time flies when you are having fun, right?!?!?
I continue to be confident in the progress being made to beat this, and hopeful that one day I won't have to worry about my AVM. In the meantime as I look back over the last two years I would say that the one word which keeps coming up over and over is "grateful." While this AVM is often an ugly thing with struggles and pain, it also has a silver lining. So here is a list of some of the wonderful things that have come out of having this AVM and being on the journey I have followed for two years.
-Support. I always have felt loved and protected by friends and family, but the outpouring of support from those close to me has been overwhelming. It makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. From my trip partners, everyone who has donated to my "travel fund," my work for accommodating my schedule, sympathy and compliments on my super model pics... everything that makes this experience a little easier is appreciated.
-New friends. The people that I have met have added such value to my life. My AVMer's as well as the nurses and other hospital staff are people that I would never have had the opportunity to know had I not been blessed with this AVM. I love them all sincerely and feel honored to be able to share with them.
-Denver. What a great city! I've really enjoyed the opportunity to experience a "second home" with these trips. It isn't like taking a vacation where you see a few sites and take pictures. We have had the opportunity to explore and really connect with another place. The lightning and thunderstorms are awesome. And this place also ties back to "support." How awesome is Jenn Astwood for letting me invade her home each month and has never expected any compensation. I will find a way to repay this generosity somehow.
-Perspective. How can you not re-evaluate the important things in life when faced with this difficult journey? Josh and I are typically "glass half full" people and already felt like we had a wonderful life. But I have found myself able to enjoy some of the simple things and find at least 10 things everyday to make me smile. And I would be as bold as to say 10 is on the low end of a normal day! I've been able to de-stress some, to be less of a control freak, to not worry about the things that I can't change or the things that really aren't important. I can recognize all of the wonderful things I do have and dwell on those instead of what I don't.
-Opportunity. It makes me feel great to be able to help people. And I will totally admit to being selfish in wanting that feeling all the time! Starting this blog and my website, putting myself out there for others to find even when the pictures are ugly and swollen and drooly...well that makes me feel good. To provide a resource for a concerned and confused person newly diagnosed with an AVM, or a parent who just found out there child has one and is wondering what is in store...that makes me feel good. To help even a little by giving some direction and some information, by pointing someone to the right websites, or even giving someone a wakeup call by looking at my pictures...it makes me feel good. By being a part of AVMsurvivors.org and chatting with other people facing similar situations...that makes me feel good.
I have no idea how much longer it will be before I can claim to be AVM free. I don't know what other challenges and surgeries I will face as part of this experience. I don't know what the final outcome will be.
But I know that I have so many wonderful people in my life that will keep helping me through this. I know that I will meet even more that will become such an important part of my life. And I know that my story and my experience will keep being out there to act as a reference and resource for other people.
And for all of this I am grateful.