I remember tucking Kaylee, when she was still a chubby baby, into her stroller on a particularly rainy day several years ago. We wanted to take advantage of the sun between the cycles of rainfall to get a quick walk and a break from the four walls that made up my living room. She was mesmerized by the world around her glistening from being bathed in raindrops, making the mundane and familiar walk seem mysterious and wondrous.
That very same earth soaked walk I took with Kaylee so many years ago was one of the last walks I would take before my health plummeted and my world was forever changed. I had achieved my biggest dream and felt as if life in that rain soaked afternoon had been almost too good to me and gave me more than I deserved. I had no idea how quickly things could change.
The following year, the smell of the earth freshly cleansed by raindrops seemed to be a distant memory, just as that toothless, chubby cheeked baby smile seemed as if it were a muddled long ago dream. We were in the midst of a drought and the sun bathed winter days seemed odd and out of place. As the months and then the year passed there was murmurs of worry. These murmurs turned into loud voices, limiting household water usage. Those voices turned stern as people were told to let their lawns turn brown, throwing around slogans that "gold" was the new green. And soon those voices were thunderous and forests and towns all around the state were going up in flames, destroying all living things in its wake. And we waited and hoped. We helplessly waited for the clouds to roll in and the sky to turn dark and wash away the drought that plagued us for years.
My health tumbled quickly after contracting the flu, and although I was worried I knew that the next set of IVs, the next round of oral, the next month would bring better health. My murmurs of fear that my illness was intent on killing me turned louder as months passed and my health had not returned. My fear became louder as yet another round of IVs made no difference in my health, which was something that seemed foreign to me prior to contracting the flu. As the years passed and my health plummeted lower and lower despite IVs and hospitals and steroids my fear became so fierce it often clouded my mind. I wrote a letter to my family on the wishes I had for my daughter as she grew older, most likely without me. My belief in a future with my family grew dim.
And then there was a glimmer of hope. The news kept announcing that El Nino was coming, which has something to do with abnormal ocean temperatures which meant the only thing we so desperately needed, rain! There were days we went outside and were reminded of the familiar smell of the sky on the cusp of rainfall. There were swollen dark clouds that rolled in heavy with raindrops waiting to tumble to our dry and cracked land. And soon the lakes and rivers started to fill, the land turned green and lush like it was always meant to be.
Around this same time there was a glimmer of hope for me as well. I made it two months without getting sick. Two months turned into three. My port went unused and I didn't see the hospital walls 8 whole months. I started to lose the paranoia of germs and sickness and death that so often haunted the deepest darkest corners of my mind. I started to think that maybe I would live long enough for my daughter to have memories of my existence outside of pictures and stories told by family members.
We are still in need of rain to fill our reservoirs and snow pack in the mountains. We are still restricted on our water usage and we know that we are teetering between being okay and not having nearly enough water to sustain our land and our people's need for water. And yet, we got a small reprieve from the four rainless years and the fear of running out of water has quieted even if just a little.
My health will never be the same as it was so many years ago. So much of my lungs are now damaged and scarred, damage that will never be healed. I still find myself gasping after carrying a heavy basket of laundry or bending over too long. I get short of breath from gardening and seemingly simple tasks which can be frustrating and saddening at the same time. And yet, I am so far from the place I used to be. I no longer wonder when I go to bed at night if I will be able to crawl out of bed in the morning. I no longer fear the grocery store because pushing a cart is something I am once again confident I can do. I no longer need a nap after even the most mundane outing. I have a life again. I know I am always one bad bug away from not being okay, but for now, I am thankful for my small reprieve from the all consuming sickness that plagued me for so many years.