This story is by William Wilberforce and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Blood continued to pour down my abdomen like a waterfall. The incision from my most recent surgery had exploded, causing three lacerations. The pain I felt was deafening. As the ringing in my ears began to subside, I got the news I didn’t want to hear.
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do for you from a surgical standpoint. Until you can get the disease under control, you’re going to have to live with this.”
Devastated, I thought to myself, “No… I’m young, and I’m fit. This makes no sense.”
For thirty years, I’ve lived a wonderful life. The glass was never half full. It was always overflowing. My life wasn’t wonderful because of the things I currently had; It was wonderful because of something different.
Hope is the one thing that keeps us going for another tomorrow. Hope is the one thing that allows us to dream and work towards a newer life.
We live with the hope that tomorrow will be better than today. My mindset was always relentlessly hopeful. If we do this today, then somewhere down the road, our situation will improve.
What if I were to tell you that no matter what you do today, it won’t matter. Your tomorrows are only going to get worse.
Not only worse, but there’s no answer or hope for how it can get better.
That September morning in 2020 brought me face to face with that question.
With three open lacerations, those words might as well have been a kiss of death for me. I’m thirty-one years old, a personal trainer with a thriving business in the prime of my life, and for the last year, my body was sabotaging me. I could always control my health, and it was suddenly on its own programming.
Since October 2019, Crohn’s Disease has damaged my digestive tract. The Crohn’s created a leakage in my small intestines. That leakage began to sink into my hip, starting the growth of pus or an abscess. Six surgeries were performed to save my life over six months. Each time was to stop me from going septic. Each one took a little more life from me, dimming the light of positivity that shined previously.
After six major surgeries in my abdomen, the professionals not only couldn’t tell me why, but they couldn’t see a plan of action that could reverse my current situation.
Six surgeries in six months.
The hope for a better tomorrow was gone. It seemed as if each surgery brought on a new problem. It had been five months since the last surgery, and every day was progressively worse. The daily pain was excruciating, as my body was pushing pus and blood out of these lacerations in rotating shifts. It was as if each cut was a member of a music group, with each member fighting for its opportunity to perform a solo on the song of my life.
I was powerless. My life had done a complete 180 overnight.
I went from working 50 training hours weekly, being a fitness leader in my community, lifting massive amounts of weight, living a life full of fire , passion, and purpose. The fall from that resulted in losing over 50lbs, having only enough strength to leave my bed to go to the bathroom, an inability to stand upright, and a defeated mind attempting to get through the day. In other words, hope was gone.
My cup wasn’t overflowing; there wasn’t a single drop of water in there.
I was worse than dead; my brain was gone. I could say all the right things, but those words didn’t match what was going on in my mind. My mind was stuck on the loop that “each day is getting worse,” and I kept proving myself right.
“I must learn how to live with this.”
The memory of “Will” was there, but I wasn’t there. I hadn’t died yet, but it was the closest thing to feeling my own “death” that I could experience. My mindset of a hopeful tomorrow was dead.
The thing about death is that there’s a process to it when it happens. Depending on what you believe in, that process is a little different. For the sake of a literal argument, there is a finality to death for the deceased. When you lose a loved one, it feels like your world has been shattered into a million tiny pieces. As you’re focused on putting everything back together, you look up, and you’re shocked. Your world is in pieces, and somehow, the world is still moving on as if it doesn’t matter that you experienced that loss. At some point, life goes on, and your new routine begins.
When you’re deceased, there’s no hope for tomorrow. The dead don’t experience what the lives of their loved ones will look like without their existence.
The deceased doesn’t get to feel forgotten. I was eye to eye with that feeling daily.
The reality for me was that injuries had trapped my body, but my mindset had trapped my mind. A fate worse than death lies within the mindset of a bad today and believing that experience will continue to manifest.
My last surgery was when COVID-19 started. Everyone’s focus understandably went to self and immediate loved ones. Routines changed, and focus shifted as we looked to navigate these uncharted times. I created more than six feet of distance between myself and the life and people I once knew in that solitude.
I would see friends online doing what they could to be sane during the quarantine. Part of me would feel happy for them. Another part of me would also be envious. Envious because my body was trapped in the grave of my bed, and my mind kept believing my days couldn’t be any better than the pain of yesterday. With no hope for tomorrow, I witnessed how loved ones would live without me.
Every day I was anticipating pain, and I was bringing it to myself. That forced me to dig deeper into my grave, connecting my mind to that negative loop even more.
When life forces you to stay on the sidelines, you get to see the harsh truth. Even though we are all the center of our own universe, at some point, you won’t be here.
Life will go on with or without you and each day of the pandemic was a reminder of that.
There comes the point in life where you have to decide whether you will be the victim or the victor. You have to make a commitment that’s greater than your current situation.
You decide to hope again. I decided that “Sure, my body isn’t capable of doing what it used to right now, but I don’t need to be a prisoner to my mind. If I got myself here, I could get myself out. A fate another person deems on you is as true as you make it. Today we take responsibility and find another ending to this story.”
Google became my best friend as I started to do the research, finding a tribe of people who survived the storm. They shared their testimonies to help me with my questions. The years of pain and the number of surgeries my new muses had endured gave me perspective and hope that I can reverse my fortunes.
Hope gave me new life.
It started with small things. I began to do whatever movement I could do. I set the bar low and found small things I could do consistently. Walk up the stairs, stand as straight as possible, calf raise, whatever I could do, I did it. In a matter of weeks, my health improved.
Still not fully healed, I changed my physical environment, thinking that would be the last thing needed to stop the loop. It did temporarily, but the “laceration band” wanted one more encore performance. It wasn’t until I changed my mental environment that the “laceration band” finally picked up their bags, and my Crohn’s had disappeared from me. You can change your location, but it means nothing if you don’t change your mindset. Now my days are full of joy, creation, and inspiration.
How we define the adversity we go through makes us who we are. The seasons we survive bring meaning to our being. With an attitude of believing, this new person was reborn.
I went through it to share that we are all here for a reason. We will all have an “Everest” that we’re going to have to climb. On that climb, the adversity will make us question our being and whether we belong. During that time of turbulence, we mustn’t lose hope. Instead, we must make the choice that we’re better than the turbulence of the season. When we do that, we’ll find the reason why we’re here. I’ve lived a fate worse than death, and through that, a wonderful life has come from it.