You know, I really used to resent having to call you that. Mommy. I know that you wanted me to stay little forever, but c'mon -- more than half of people with cystic fibrosis pass away before their eighteenth birthday. Growing up was the only thing I cared about.
If I'm being honest, I used to resent a lot of the things you did to (to? for?) me. Forcing me to vest at slumber parties, never leaving my side at the hospital, asking me over and over (and over) if I had taken my pills, and if not, then when would I, and with what beverage, and did I need a straw, and here's a granola bar and some hand sanitizer and would I please go call Grandma?
Whether you didn't trust me to take care of myself or just wanted me to remember that I was sick, I didn't know. However, my first suspicion seemed more probable, because you wouldn't put up with any talk of a port placement surgery, an oxygen cannula or the Make-A-Wish Foundation. "That's not for you, Hannah. You're fine." I grew accustomed to your tame, tight-lipped clinic tantrums and stopped asking the doctor questions you didn't want to hear the answers to.
The “T” word was first spoken during a hospital stay in my fifteenth year of life. You were downstairs getting coffee when the doctor looked me in the eye and told me that I'd need new lungs someday (not soon, but sooner than anybody would want someone else's organ sewn into their chest). I nodded my head in understanding and silently thanked the universe for your morning caffeine addiction.
Cystic fibrosis always scared you more than it did me. You trembled at the thought of brittle bones and damaged lungs, and you trembled at the thought of CF-oriented anxiety or depression. That's why when I received the clinic's yearly screening survey, I always circled “No” instead of “Yes.”
No, I do not feel anxious, nervous or on-edge most days.
No, I do not frequently fear that something awful is about to happen.
No, I do not think I need help.
Yes, yes, yes.
When I moved to the other side of the state for college, I was instantly introduced to the health-related liberties I had been craving since adolescence. I skipped my breathing treatments when my friends were over, I slept alone at the hospital and I took my pills when I felt like it. Needless to say, my body declined...but it was worth it, right? Because I had got what I wanted and now I was happy, right?
I realized that along with my freedom to neglect medical compliancy came another: the freedom to have realistic, occasionally terrifying conversations with my doctors without feeling guilty about it.
That's why when second semester rolled around, I walked into the ER and requested additional oxygen, a bed on the sixth floor and a port placement surgery. It was my body and I knew what it needed. I always had. The next day, I broke down to the social worker, told her about the crippling anxiety I had been hiding since puberty and asked for the help you never knew I needed. I finally circled “Yes.”
Resentment is a feeling I no longer harbor, especially when it comes to you. With age, I realize that you didn't just want me to stay little forever, but you wanted me to stay alive forever -- to remain in your arms, under your roof and on your Earth. And how could I ever blame you for that?
I love you, Mommy.