Our Race for the Cure

I ran a marathon once. I was 21 years old. I remember passing the 13-mile mark, thinking, “Halfway! All I need to do is another 13 miles. I can do it!” And I did. It took all of 3 hours and 38 minutes.

I’m running a bigger race now. It’s longer and much harder. The hardest part? I don’t know if I’m halfway. I don’t know what the finish line looks like. Is there a finish line?

I hear messages that tell me, “Of course there is a finish line!” “Your bodies can heal.” “All you need to do is _____.” “Just try _______.” “You need to have more faith.” “Have you tried _______?” Rather than words of love and encouragement, my beleaguered brain hears two words: “Try harder.”

On the other side, I hear messages that tell me to stop being so obsessed, insisting that our health issues are “not that bad.” I don’t hear relief with these words; my downcast spirit hears, “You’re crazy.”

Our race for the cure has been more traumatic than our flight from our toxic home.

It has been far lonelier, more confusing, more anxiety-producing than all of the emergency room visits and surgeries combined. Why? When I was depending on the medical community, all I had to do was get my sick children to a designated office or hospital. If I followed directions, surely a doctor would provide the magic pill and rescue us. When that fantasy died, I was left alone.

My burden as a mother increased exponentially, because suddenly I had to take responsibility for our health.

That’s when the confusion escalated. We turned to alternative health. The depth of our illness disturbed those who treated us, leaving me with the same horrifying feeling that has haunted me daily for the last 4 years. “This is your fault. The body is meant to heal.” No one said this, of course, but I felt it. (One practitioner did put words to it, suggesting that my 8-year-old son had diabetes due to “narcissism.”)

Our race continued.

“I must figure this out. It’s up to me. I must find the cure. I must!” The messages continued to intensify. I couldn’t ask my husband to carry it. He was busy trying to climb out of our deep financial hole while providing for our race.

The alternative treatments helped. Our bodies responded. We saw progress. But the race seemed unending. It became clear after 18 months that our recovery would be much longer than I anticipated.

We turned to diet as our treatment. The race only intensified.

The anxiety and confusion in the world of healing diets is staggering. “You should juice. You shouldn’t juice. Meats are good. Meats are bad. Ferments are good. Ferments are bad. You can’t. You can. You should. You shouldn’t.”

What’s a mother to do?

Try harder? Give up?

Ironically, the dietary changes have helped the most. But what about the cure? My son still has type 1 diabetes. Have I failed? Have I done everything possible for him? The questions are unending.

After a reflective few months, I have come to the realization that it’s time to stop our race for the cure.

Does that mean I’m giving up? Absolutely not. I love my kitchen “laboratory.” I’m always ready to try something new. But I’m relinquishing. I’m letting go. I’m choosing to embrace our life rather than fix it.

I’m choosing to enjoy my children just the way they are. Broken or fixed, I love them. Same with my husband and our life together. In sickness and in health. For richer, for poorer. Till death do us part.

I take heart in the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate states. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability and that it may take a very long time.

Determination . . . perseverance . . . patience. I don’t need a cure to practice these. I don’t have to race, either. I just need to keep going. One unhurried step at a time.