Two years ago I had to live through almost three weeks of uncertainty that helped mold me and shape me into the person I am today.
On January 31, 2017, I was finally told of my misdiagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Cancer of the Lymph nodes). Initially, I was told by a specialist that he was certain I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, in early January 2017. It was something that made sense to me as I had suffered lots of swollen lymph nodes and fatigue. This was my second time in my life that Doctors believed I had cancer, the first time was at the age of seven.
The next 11 months that followed, was a journey into an unknown illness that was soon made known in December of 2017. I was diagnosed with a rare degenerative immune mediated disease: Ankylosing Spondylitis (A.S); my demon and my light. Dan Reynolds, lead singer of Imagine Dragons and also a fellow ASer articulates the word demon well in one of his songs, “Demons.” Reynolds sings of how Demons are hidden amongst us, even amongst the light. I hear his lyrics as our demons are our light, but our light is also our demons.
January 30th is Bell Let’s Talk Day, a day that recognizes mental illness.
The long road to being diagnosed took a toll on my mental health, even though I have not been officially diagnosed with any mental health issues. The effects of being misdiagnosed and being told I have cancer at the young age of 28, left long lasting effects on me mentally, only to be told after that I have a degenerative disease.
I am taken back to a day last summer when a woman said to me, “The diagnosis of this illness has been a very internal journey for me”. When we find ourselves in a difficult time we often find ourselves internalizing. Though spiritually my medical experience is a very profound journey, and internalizing from this aspect is important, internalizing too often can lead us to a harder place; a place that can leave us feeling alone and in the dark. For weeks I internalized the diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, both spiritually and mentally, but yet, the best way to deal with things is to speak out, to share with other’s that you are not okay. However, we internalize because we are fearful and for many of us we may never find the strength to open up about our darkness. A poster hangs at Westboro Station, “It is okay not to be okay”, which was posted after January 11th’s tragic bus crash. On this poster it tells folks to reach out for help if they are not okay. In the past few months I have experienced Ottawa come together in my community. We have truly experienced a lot in this city in a short time. First, the Tornado, that struck September 21, 2018, and then the bus crash. Yet, among these demons, there is much light and I am grateful to know that I am living in a city where we are here to help one other at our darkest hour.
My journey of The Sock Project that started in 2017, was my “call” for support. I asked family and friends and soon sock companies to send me fun silly socks, and challenged folks to send me 365 pairs of socks that I would wear a different pair every day. This call turned into thousands of socks sent, and soon enough I had so many socks that I started sending socks out to people with Auto Immune and chronic illness to brighten their day. I say thank you, but I also articulate that my project is about advocacy and community. It is a project that brings us together in difficult times. It is a project that has allowed many to speak out about their journey or loved ones of other’s to speak out for their loved ones who are suffering. If you are suffering, please, reach out to The Sock Project on Facebook or @The_Sock_Project on Instagram. There is also a Go Fund Me page: The Sock Project, where money is going into The Sock Project to help people specifically. The Sock Project is here to help all those suffering chronic illness; physically and mentally. It is a safe “space”. All are loved, all are cherished.
Ms. Jessica L. Baird
B.A., B.Ed., Lay Minister Anglican Church Of Canada
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