I’ve mentioned having a chronic illness before and have shared about it quite a bit. I don’t remember how I told my good friends that I had become ill with something that would change the rest of my life, but I do know I’ve never really gone over the entire story of what happened during that trip to North Carolina. This time I want to share more details about the very real nightmare I had about three years ago.
Here is my story.
The sun was shining down on my face and grazed my blonde summer highlights as I watched the waves crash onto the white sand beach. I approached the water cautiously, dipping my toes in and closing my eyes to fully experience the chilling sensation. It was only my second time surfing, but I was a fairly gifted athlete, so I was confident I would do as well as I had in California a few years prior. The instructor had been impressed with my performance, despite it being my first time. I was excited to give it a go again; the beach has always been my favorite place in the world and I felt at peace being back at my safe haven.
It was my last summer at home before I went out into the world to chase my dream of being a journalist. I had just graduated college and was bright eyed, bushy tailed, and a big bundle of nerves. There were so many things I didn’t have the answers to yet. I wanted to live in New York again, but it was so expensive. I wanted to be near my long-term boyfriend, but he didn’t seem to take my opinion into account as to where we could live.
None of that mattered today, though. I pushed everything to the back of my mind; today was all about me, my board, and the beach. I felt free — even if I had to go back to my normal life in a few days.
I shifted my gaze as the cold water pulsed over my painted toes, took a deep breath, and charged through the icy waves until I could get on my board and paddle. I glided through the water seamlessly until I was far enough behind the waves to turn around. The view of the beach from the ocean was peaceful and serene. I turned around to scout out my first wave. I saw the perfect ripple forming and paddled as fast as I could. I loved being in control of my body and the board beneath it. We sliced through the water together until it was time for me to go off on my own and stand up. The board remained faithfully beneath my feet, soaring across the wave. I hadn’t remembered smiling so wide in a long time. Anxiety seemed to plague my mind, as I was constantly nervous about my future. I was worn out and felt like I didn’t have any control over what was about to happen in my life.
The board shook beneath my feet and I crashed into the water.
I laughed as I wiped the salty water from my eyes and shook the sand from my hair. It was my first wave of the day; I wasn’t supposed to get that one anyway. I beamed as I flipped the board around and sprinted back into the roaring waves. They were just playing with me; they didn’t mean any harm. I tried and fell a few more times. This didn’t break my spirit, as I was happy that it was summer and that I could enjoy my time in the ocean. Something didn’t feel quite right, though. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I realized I needed to take a break from surfing. I had caught a few waves and crashed on several more. Maybe I just needed to sit and hydrate. I rode a wave in and struck the ground one last time.
I drug my board to shore and plopped down on my pink and yellow starfish towel as I wiggled my hips to get the rest of the sand out of my suit. I took a sip of water and noticed the unfamiliar purple wounds on my legs — bruises from falling. I didn’t think much of it, with the exception of being a bit surprised that the marks took so quickly. I was breathing a little harder than usual. I had just run a half marathon a few weeks before; should I really be that tired from riding waves? Whatever, surfing is hard, I thought. I need to just give myself a break.
I stayed out of the water the rest of the day and figured I would give it another go tomorrow. After all, we still had a few days left; there was no need to rush.
Little did I know this would be the last normal physical activity I would do for upwards of three years. Come back on Saturday to continue on this journey with me.