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What Could Have Been

October 29, 2013

I just caught myself.

I’m writing up a proposal this afternoon for a music therapy study at an Ontario-based complex care hospital. Drawing on lingo from the hospital’s website and mission statement, I’ve been weaving words around “improving the lives of people living with chronic conditions,” and such, with a clear visual in mind. I know this health centre. The “chronic conditions” they deal with are typically people with congenital disabilities, who have spent their entire lives institutionalized – most of them are unable to perform basic activities of daily life, be physically independent, or speak. Typing away, I punched things out about these persons with chronic health conditions, about how this health centre’s innovative practice is “transforming how people with chronic conditions live full lives.”

Then I caught myself. I am also a person with a chronic condition.  But not those kinds of people with chronic conditions – no trach tubes or toiletting assistance needed for me. So how, I asked myself, does this statement relate to me?

The answer: it DOES RELATE TO ME, big time. I am supported in some major ways, by health care providers, in living a “full life” with a chronic condition. Major ways meaning: insulin exists. Test strip technology is pretty rad too, though criminally expensive, and insulin pumps and pens? Pretty snazzy-jazzy tools!

So while I am thankfully not a residential patient at a complex care hospital, I am a breath away from being in a similar life-limiting state. If insulin hadn’t been discovered…if Banting hadn’t been born…if I had been misdiagnosed, if, if if. Thinking about this, I got that little goosebumpy experience from musing on … what could have been, if Western medicine wasn’t what it was.

That thought…it’s like a shadow I walk with, rarely conscious of it, though chilled and humbled when I am. Sort of like those what-ifs when someone narrowly avoids a car accident, or was late for to catch the doomed flight.

So in between writing up this report for the health centre, I paused and wrote this little poem. That shadow, that life that could have been…I think it’s not a bad thing to think about, as we head into this spooky and shadowy time of year, and into Diabetes Month itself.

I brush along its shadow every day,

the light stroke of a feather on my arm, in the afternoon shade –

Today, I strode boldly through my own thicket of toils and joys and needs,

and along it rode with me, that soft shadow,

brushing at my heels – all that could have been.

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