Its amazing how much time gets away from us. I’m still here and Carmella’s Quest is still around. I am without excuse for letting this blog go unblogged for so long. All I can say is that I found it necessary to keep my writing to myself for a while. Various circumstances arose during the past couple years that demanded most of my time and attention. These were intensely painful and private matters. As always, writing was a vital outlet during this time but most of what I wrote about was equally personal and private.
Some of these life events involved my own health. Others involved a roller coaster ride of emotional closeness and distance with one of CQ’s main characters that played out painfully but inevitably over several years. The most important major life event I’ve been through during the past couple years was caring for my faithful guide dog Maggie as she began deteriorating physically and mentally. She was finally helped to pass peacefully on July 11 2013 right before her sixteenth birthday. What I went through with her has changed me in such profound ways and there will never be another dog I love the same way. She was with me when CQ was published in print and when I recorded the audio version at the SC State Library’s Talking Book Services offices.
Six months after Maggie’s death, and as a new year is getting underway, I am turning my attention back to projects that have been neglected for far too long. There are several CQ related things I’d like to catch readers up on. In the rest of this entry, I want to talk about a woman who was part of my life during that time. We knew each other through living in the same dorm and through singing in the choir together. She served as my sighted guide on and offstage during the multistate concert choir tour I talk about in Carmella’s Quest. Her name is Donna Marie Gold. I want readers to know about this woman and the journey she is on.
Donna is one of many friends and classmates from North Greenville I’ve reconnected with via FaceBook. I relate to Donna on several levels. In addition to a love of singing and a common faith, Donna and I were both also called to similar types of work. We both transferred from North Greenville to colleges in Columbia SC. Me to Columbia International University and Donna to Columbia College. We also both pursued additional training in Biblical studies. While I was working on an undergrad degree in psychology, Donna was studying social work. We were both at USC (the real one, in South Carolina) working on our graduate degrees at the same time. I finished my counseling degree in 2004 and Donna obtained her masters in Social Work in 2005.
We both pursued professional licensure and careers as helping professionals. Donna is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is from the Columbia SC area, which is where I live now. Donna worked in several social work positions here before moving to San Diego CA. Since 2006, she has been the clinical director of an agency that oversees residential programs for women and children in difficult and vulnerable situations. She also opened a part-time private practice.
Towards the end of 2013, Donna was preparing to move back to SC. There were some difficult circumstances going on with her family and she wanted to be geographically closer to them again. Donna was in the middle of making these arrangements when the unexpected happened. She found out she had uterine cancer. She knew she would need to stay put in CA for a little while longer in order to maintain her employment and health benefits to afford treatment. Donna thought she would have the needed surgery ASAP and get on with recovery and her plans of returning to SC in early 2014. Then came more unexpected news. Donna learned that she would not be able to have surgery to remove the cancer right away as would usually be the case due to another health issue.
Specifically, doctors won’t perform the surgery until Donna loses a considerable amount of weight. They told her the risks involved would be more of a concern than the cancer at this point. So, Donna has now undertaken the challenge of losing a lot of weight in a short amount of time. This situation forced her to face an area of her life that has been an ongoing struggle for years. She has entered a medically supervised liquid diet program involving shakes containing needed nutrients. She is in a group with others who are on this diet and has lost quite a bit of weight during the past few weeks. Donna reports that she has not “cheated” on her diet. Only one other person in her class can say the same. She is seeing the results of her efforts but knows she will be continuing this program for a little while before she can be cleared for surgery.
Donna also knows that, when she can eventually eat again, she’ll face the challenges of having to learn to have a healthy relationship with food. This is something so many struggle with to some extent. Donna still plans to move back to SC once her health is more stable. Meanwhile, in addition to hunger and resisting food temptations on a daily basis, Donna struggles with physical pain and financial stress. She is going through a time of difficult emotions and having to find new ways of coping besides turning to food. She is experiencing a lot of medical expenses and is attending a lot of medical appointments while continuing to work in a profession that, though very rewarding, can also be very stressful. I know that firsthand. It can be hard to take good care of yourself while working so hard to help so many others.
Donna is relying on her faith and the support of her medical team, family, friends, and a network of people who care about her as she is going through these challenges. One extremely healthy thing Donna decided to do, in my opinion, is to share her journey through a blog on the popular Caring Bridge site. Being willing to share about our personal experiences via writing is another thing Donna and I have in common. Putting one’s struggles “out there” in this way requires a level of transparency that can be uncomfortable, at times. Donna and I have talked about how vulnerable it is to let others in on very personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences in this way. We also both agree that doing so can be very healing and powerful for ourselves and our readers. Sharing our truth can be freeing, too. Others may learn about us, but we also learn a lot about ourselves. It also allows us to share how God is working in our lives and the difference real faith makes through “I” messages, which are often met with more openness than “preaching” or “evangelizing.”
I asked Donna if I could write a blog entry about her story. For one thing, those who have read CQ often ask me about people I knew during that time and are interested in updates. More importantly, I wanted to do this because I think what Donna is going through and the choices she is making are important to share. We all have areas of our lives we know we need to give more attention to. Sometimes, circumstances force us to do so in ways that are vastly different from what we might have wanted. At such times, we face hard choices that may be difficult and uncomfortable. Donna has done this and continues to make the choice to pursue her health and wellness each day.
I encourage readers to visit Donna’s “Fast and Furious” blog to get to know her and more of her story and to support her with thoughts and prayers.