Learning to Bloom Where You’re Planted | Monthly Resilience Report: June 2021 (Last One)

This post concludes my Monthly Resilience Report series, in which I document the ebbs and flows of recovering from autoimmune encephalitis. Previous ones can be found below:

Two years ago this month, I was hospitalized for the first time. I was diagnosed with seronegative autoimmune encephalitis (AE). And I started 5 months of immunotherapy, roughly 5 years after my illness first began.

By November 2019, I thought the war was won: I seemingly had all the answers to solve my medical mystery, which had been open since 2014. It was clear by that month that standard AE treatments had worked wonders to bring me back to my original baseline of good health and cognitive functioning. Sure, I knew relapsing was a possibility; but were that to happen, I figured that healing again would be as simple as resuming Rituxan.

And then 2020 happened. 2020 taught me that there is a whole lot more to encephalitis, the medical system, and to put it plainly—human suffering—than I appreciated the first time I recovered.

But it (along with 2021) has also taught me that I’m capable of much more than I know. I started this Resilience Report series exactly one year ago—2.5 months after resuming Rituxan—thinking that an upward ascent was nigh. That I’d be declaring myself healed in no time. As it would turn out—NOPE! Turns out, I’d continue to deteriorate, accrue more medical trauma, and require another hospitalization to start recorrecting the bleak course of my disease!

As devastating as that was, what unfolded was actually a lot more meaningful than what I had originally hoped for. I was stretched to new limits, widening my horizons and deepening my understanding of what it means to be human. I found out what I’m made of, by being broken down into my component parts. And while it remains uncertain how the parts are going to be reconfigured, I see many exciting potentialities ahead. I mean, I’m not well enough right now to be jumping up and down about it just yet; but I feel a sense of conviction that whatever the future holds, it’s going to be okay. Underneath the surface struggles, I see a continuously evolving reserve of inner resources that will buoy me through whatever comes my way.

And with that, I’ve decided to conclude this Resilience Report series. I think they’ve served their purpose, providing an unvarnished and unglamourous glimpse into what it’s been like for me to persevere through the past year of living with AE. Lots of battles and lots of bumps, but with some key victories that encourage me to keep exploring the future with curiousity rather than trepidation. Most of the time, at least!

After writing 12 of these, my biggest takeaway is the conviction that there’s a reason I’ve survived the past 7 years. I feel that in my gut. I’m determined to make it, to live a compelling story, to help others along the way, and to reach a far more satisfying end to this journey. That’s what resilience means to me.

What’s ahead? Well for starters, I’ve got a PET scan on the books to capture the cognitive decline I’ve been experiencing again over the past weeks. Hopefully that will open up more treatment options, to push me out of this relapse and back on to the healing road I was on when I left the hospital in January. And I still plan to keep writing here, with the goal of once monthly at minimum.

I leave you with a relevant highlight of the past month: seeing the AE Alliance newsletter published, with my story starting on page 12. It was a real honour for me to be asked to write a piece for the Alliance’s recurring “My AE Journey” newsletter segment, as it’s an organization that is moving mountains in the AE world and directly impacts patients just like me. Click on the photo below to have a read:

And… that’s a wrap! Thank you to everyone who joined along with me for this series, and for those who’ve dropped a line—you’ve done wonders to aid me in remaining resilient through this journey, and I would not have gotten as far without you 😊

This post concludes my Monthly Resilience Report series, in which I document the ebbs and flows of recovering from autoimmune encephalitis. Previous ones can be found below:

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