Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My Week with Tori

     A couple of years ago, after joining the chronic illness community on Instagram, a shining light came into my life. Her name was Tori and she quickly became one of my best friends. When I met her I was undiagnosed, and a complete mess. She was very recently diagnosed after having gone through some time searching for answers. She has Autoimmune Autonomic Ganglionopathy which is basically an autoimmune disease that causes complete failure of the autonomic nervous system. Her stomach, intestines, bowel and bladder don't function, among other things. And my goodness, is she badass. With all her medical knowledge she acquired over the years, she helped me on my painful path to diagnosis. She was there for me when my bladder decided to go into retention and I was diagnosed with neurogenic bladder. She was there for me when I had strange stroke-like episodes. She was there for me when the mental anguish of losing my ability to function was too much to take. Over the two years we got closer and closer, eventually FaceTiming almost daily. Tori is from Virginia, and I am from Montreal, so you can imagine the excitement when it came time for her to come stay with me for a week.

   She ended up coming a day early, arriving at 11:30 PM after being briefly stopped at the Canadian border and asked about her medical supplies. I was naturally waiting for her in the window, so as soon as I saw her white Ford Escape pull up, I ran outside and toward the car like an idiot. This is when we got to hug for the first time and it was so special. 

   Our first day here, we did what all chronic illness friends do together and went to a doctor's appointment I had. Then we went to my local mall, which is pretty much my natural habitat, and looked around a bit. I had a feeling Tori would like David's Tea and I was definitely right. We went back there multiple times during the week. 

   One thing I can tell you is that while Tori was here, I pushed myself to my limits. If I can tell you one thing about Tori, it's that she does not let any of her conditions stop her from doing anything. She's resilient, and this is a quality I'd love to rub off on me a bit. I'm not one to compare illnesses, because everybody has a different story, but Tori's illness is factually what you'd call more severe and life threatening than mine. However, she functions most of the time like a champ. It reminds me of what my amazing grandmother used to say when she was fighting cancer; "I'm in great shape for the shape I'm in.". And so this week I tried to learn to be a little bit more like Tori. To be a little more adventurous and when I feel like I can't take one more step to take one more. 

    On our first day, we started looking up tattoo shops. There is a tattoo that I'd been planning on getting for a while, and Tori loved it too, so we decided to get them together. We ended up going to Adrenaline and getting our tattoos. I'll save talking about the tattoo for another blog post, but even though I was pretty scared, it actually ended up being fun. I'm a baby when it comes to pain and Tori was great at distracting me by talking about cats, and it only took about 8 minutes. In the meantime, she didn't even flinch getting hers. Anyway, the tattoos turned out beautiful and exactly how we wanted them. The symbols read "I am greater than the highs and lows". For me, this represents being greater than the literal highs and lows of Type 1 Diabetes, and being greater than the mental highs and lows of a mood disorder. 

   Thursday, we ended up back at the mall and Tori got some good Canadian deals on clothes. We went to Michael's and got some jewelry making supplies and had fun with those for the rest of the afternoon. At night, my childhood best friend, Marlee, came over and met Tori and we pretty much just talked for hours and had a great time.

    Friday was probably our busiest day. We picked up my best friend, Rachel, and went to the Old Port in Old Montreal, which was a must-see for Tori. There was this wild "adult jungle gym", as Rachel called it, on a pirate ship by the water, and I knew right away that this thing was pretty much built for Tori. She had a good time even though she got stuck up there behind some slow kids. On our way home we went out for dinner with my parents, and then called it a day.

    For the weekend we kept it pretty quiet. I think we both needed some recovery from the busy days we had just had. 

   On Monday we went to the ecomuseum, which is home to a hundred species of Canadian wildlife. These are all animals who could not survive in their natural habitat due to injuries and such. We got pretty close to the caribou, so that was probably my favorite part. There was also a beautiful one eyed Arctic wolf named Gandalf. 

     Today was our last day together. We went to the lookout, where you can see the Montreal skyline, and went out for dinner. Spending a week with one of my best friends, but also one of my chronic illness friends, was just incredibly special. Having a friend next to you who understands the frustration of having a body that doesn't function the way it should, is priceless. There were many times we crashed. There were many sessions of laying on the floor. There were many MANY stomach pains. But all in all, I personally can't believe all I accomplished this week without falling flat on my face. There are no words to describe how much I am going to miss her. I really like it when she's not a floating head on my iPhone screen. Next time you hear about our adventures, it will likely be me in Virginia. 

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