Life on the other side of sickness

The views expressed in the following article are the opinion of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Newswire staff as a whole.

Being hospitalized nearly all summer made me appreciate my life in college more.

And yes, reader, I wrote that line correctly.

Having an autoimmune disease as unpredictable as systemic lupus means I never know when my next trip — or worse, full admittance — to the hospital will be.

For any reader who isn’t familiar, lupus is when a person’s immune system mistakes healthy tissues and organs for diseased ones and subsequently attacks the healthy tissues and organs of the sufferer.

The past two years have been a series of twists and turns with my health. Lupus attacked my brain (causing multiple seizures that nearly took my life in 2016), my organs, you name it. If I had a dollar for every time I had to be unexpectedly rushed to Good Sam because I wasn’t sure if I was having a cramp or another potentially deadly liver flare-up, I’d be able to pay off my student loans.

Cut to May 2018. Classes were finally done. A suitcase ready for three months of fun with a best friend in New York had been sitting by my door for weeks. My plans were set in stone, or so I thought.

Less than a week after classes were over, I was in the most excruciating pain in my existence (this includes almost dying two years before). After being rushed to the ER, the doctors discovered my blood platelets were extremely low (I had fewer than 10,000 while a healthy person has more than 135,000), and my liver was infected for reasons the doctors still don’t understand.This marked the beginning of my summer in the hospital and the end of any happy summer plans.

May was spent entirely in a hospital bed. June revolved around daily infusions to treat my liver and platelets (if you don’t know what a PICC-LINE is, it’s not fun. Trust me, I had one in each arm in fewer than two months.). I’d wake up around 6 a.m. every morning so I could get on with my day, especially because afterward I would be so exhausted I’d just want to sleep for hours. In July, my infection came back full-on, and I was back in the hospital the entire month. The doctor still had no idea what the cause was. Each day in the hospital made me feel more helpless.

To say I felt strong during this time would be a lie. I was at my angriest, especially (and regretfully) toward the ones who cared about me the most. Complete loss of control is difficult to cope with. I justified taking it out on the world for months. By August, I was finally free and ready to reestablish my priorities in life.

Before anything else, I want happiness for myself. School has been the door for me to escape systemic poverty and my own ignorance. By putting my focus back into my education and not the anger I felt for having this stupid autoimmune disease thrown into my already-chaotic life, I was finally starting to heal from the trauma of the summertime.

Being hospitalized for months made me appreciate everything in my life so much more.

It took weeks just for me to get the energy to walk around my house again and even longer to go outside without feeling winded.

Instead of letting anger consume me, I was beginning to take responsibility for my emotions and how I treated others. I’ve been blessed with a robust support system at Xavier and beyond who stood by my side during my worst, I have access to an incredible education and network and, most of all, I am still alive and well enough to be here for my final year, which I appreciate more than anything.

No one knows what the future holds for them. It sounds corny, but tomorrow could bring literally anything, and we don’t know if it’ll be positive or not. It took time, but being more mindful of my actions rather than focusing on being angry at situations I cannot change has made me see how blessed I am in this lifetime.

Toni Carlotta is a senior communications major and a staff writer for the Newswire. He is a native of Cincinnati.