Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gratitude to my Friends

This is a special post dedicated to all my amazing friends. I am humbled by the undying love, care, devotion, physical, emotional, and spiritual support that I have received in SO many forms from this amazing tribe of people over the last 3 years. I don't know what I did do deserve your incredible love. I have never felt so loved by a group of people in my life. This post is to describe - in detail - the IMMENSE GRATITUDE I feel for all my friends from all over the country, but ESPECIALLY some 40 or 50 people in San Francisco(my home for the last 6 years) who made it possible for me to live there on my own.

Gratitude is a not a new concept to me, but it is shining in a whole new light these days. This group of friends in SF became my FAMILY esp. over the last 2 years while I was living there and traveling between doctors, trying to figure out what was wrong with me (12 docs to be exact). And then on often grueling treatment (I went to Michigan every few months but this urban tribe kept me alive, kept me going while I was in SF). They brought me food, groceries, cut my cucumbers, washed my vegetables, made me cookies, rubbed my neck, did my dishes, folded my laundry, cut open coconuts for me, ran to the pharmacy, picked up oxygen tanks, drove me to countless doctor's appointments and acupuncture sessions, held my hand and dried my tears, even on one occasion carried me up my very steep stairs, literally, and then put oxygen tubing in my nose so I could breathe and calmed me down til the narcotic painkillers set in (thanks AG). And thanks my old 224 roommate (SG), for carrying me to the car for our pizza date at Little Star and being my superhero farmboy. Even though you told me I was heavy and I only weighed 107 lbs then! I'm now 117 lbs. - almost back at fighting weight!

This group of friends would stock their cars with food, blankets, sweaters, sparkling water, and any other Mona-necessary accessory and drive me to the beach, over Golden Gate Bridge, push me in wheelchairs through museums (Fred), sit on the phone with me when my face was plastered with tears and stuck to my bamboo bedroom rug and WAIT on the phone until I put clothes on and got outside of the house to get out of my depression (thanks Fred again).

Even sisters (Kim!) of friends who I didn't know too well at the time cooked me dinners and walked these home cooked dinners over while pregnant! Another pregnant friend (Johonna) cooked me 2 pans of meatloaf, came up from the peninsula to have movie night with me even while she was nauseated. MD cooking me dinner almost every week! Friends I hadn't heard from in ages came into my life, offering love, help, support, old roommates dropped off flowers and groceries. Nate and Nicole dropping off dinner, pie, peaches. Liz and Andrew doing my Whole Paycheck grocery runs. Matt and EJ spending their FRIDAY night after a long hard work week cooking and slicing 2 bags of meat and veggies in my house so I could easily prepare meals for the next 2 weeks. Caroline and Ally driving me to all my appointments in the middle of their busy days. Yael driving to another Lyme patients' house in Marin to pick up a donated IV pole and other IV equipment. Yael and Amanda making me a sequined cape and mailing it here to wear during my treatments. My dear family friend Marty counseling me on a weekly basis sometimes and treating me like her own daughter. I mean HOW BLESSED AM I?

I will list all the names of every friend who came to my side or to my ear by phone or to offer support somehow, but I may not remember all so apologies: Melanie, Nealan, Schmemms, Jessica G, Johonna, Yael, Steph P., Jessica A., Amy Y., Galen, Jimmy, Christa, Matt, EJ, Andrew, Sammy, EJ, Sue Wen, Suha, Caroline, Ally, Dani, Erica B., Mary, Leslie, Kelli, Ellen, Amanda R., Jen LL, Andy S., Tiernan, Jon C., Jeff C., Lexi C., Adam K., Pete H., Yves, Liz/Drew, Nate/Nicole, Kim/Dusty, Tamara, Jessica F., Kim P., Matt G., Sheena W., Nina P., Ben O., Ben/Mala (aka Benala), Mikey M., Julie H., Cindy Deluz (my soulmate/angel), Sara & Julie K., Sara P., Freddy B., Lauren K., Roger J., Beth W., Beth D., Zach W., Greg W., Ziegs, Marc Z (monkey), Colleen M., Amy JP, Nancy Weed, Gigi, Marty H., Katherine R., Shannon F., Kathleen, Karen H., Fiona, Jen S., Jen B. (my Lymie cohort), Marty M., Batya, Tali, Gustavo, Dunaske, Emilia, Ian/Jill, Aymee and Maria, John L., Wendy T., Nicole/Antonio, my Lyme support team: Jen B., Phuli, Mandy S., Kristie Y., Catherine H., Jen. N., Helen R., Hanna B., Melissa H., Allison HC, Melanie LC, Angie YR, Diana R., Amy H., Heidi L., and so many others...
oh my god I'm kind of realizing this is dorky to list all these names, but I have's like graduation, but instead of a diploma, you get a big virtual hug from me!

Please know I remember each of you in my heart, if not in my overly medicated brain at this moment enough to present on this page. My most fond memory is flying back to SF last summer, having my birthday BBQ at the beach, seeing all my friends against the backdrop of Baker Beach, Golden Gate Bridge, and DOLPHINS, singing me happy birthday and crying over my cake with tears of gratitude. The tears were filled with a kind of love I don't know if I will ever be able to explain in words. Other than gratitude. Thank you just doesn't do it justice.

And it's not only the physical actions, but the love, and happiness so many of you brought into my life. Making me laugh, keeping me alive, giving me hope, doing meditations in my honor before my IV surgery, Sue's "Mona Manifestation Health Project," even telling me I'm inspiring to them. Wow, wow, wow. I have felt many times over the past 4 years:

Fear, terror
Lost, trapped, overwhelmed, about to give up on this whole 4 years and life...

..but what I have felt more in the last year or tried to remember to feel on days, even the hard grueling agonizing ones, is:


Gratitude for everything, even the blankets on my bed to keep me warm at night, the roof over my head, the healthy food I have access to, my beautiful nieces, my parents to take care of me, the fact that I have access to some of the best Lyme doctors in the country where so many people cannot even afford to see them (not that we can afford it, but we won't be out on the street like some families if they had to), my amazing friends, my memories, my ability to cultivate and manifest dreams and aspirations in my head still (this one is hard to do on many days) of mountain biking, surfing, playing, snowboarding, traveling, working, helping others, using my law degree to help others who face the same challenges I face now, my education. There is so much to be unhappy about when you are sick, lonely, broke, depressed, jobless, unable to exercise, drink, or be 'normal' for many years at 32. But I am constantly forced to remember that there is always something to be grateful for.

And perhaps this experience (believe me I will NOT say this on some days) is something to be grateful for; an opportunity to really discover myself, to change my view on life (because it has changed immensely), to learn, to grow, to use it as a catalyst for change not only in my life but, eventually, for others and the greater good. Letting go of all these material identities has given me a chance that I think most people on Earth are never granted the opportunity to do: release ALL ties to any material form of identity: first I lost my physical abilities, then my cognitive abilities, then had to quit my job, give up my car, my apartment, my ability to be the old 'fun, partying, snowboarding, dancing, silly surfing, traveling, crazy full of life' Mona, release my identity as a civil rights attorney and advocate, and finally, in October 2009, I left SF. It was the last 'piece' of me remaining. Any ties I had left to my old life were erased.

And this gratitude evokes forth more gratitude from the universe. It's true!! Those of you may think I'm a silly hippie lost in "The Secret" but it's true. And The Secret (movie and tapes) are great!

Losing all these 'things' and 'identities' was devastating to me. I cried for days when I had to admit I could no longer work. I cried for weeks when I left San Francisco. But those tears harbored release, and that release gave birth to NAKED Mona (No, not naked with no clothes on. Naked, with no attachments to this world. Almost like a Buddhist monk who goes out into the forest in his robe alone for months without speaking to a soul (thank God I can still talk to people, or I would have lost it), free of all those material identifications, which in the end, are NOT who you are. I am not a Buddhist monk, but...

I am not my lawyer, my surfer, my dancer, my rock climber, my cook, my go out and play persona. Those things make up who I am, and are parts of me, but they don't identify ME. The real me is something that is never lost. And it took 4 years of illness to see that completely and beautifully. It took a long time to see this and believe that you can be your true self without all those identifications. My friends helped me see this, when I could do nothing more than sit with them, talk, and eat. That was all I could do and still my friends reminded me that I still brought laughter, joking, compassion, love, and even inspiration to them, and THAT is so much more fulfilling as a human creature than any other thing on earth (well maybe a close second to snowboarding in 4 feet of fresh powder).

(YES, I KNOW this is repeated like 5 times elsewhere in my blog)

And quite honestly, I don't think I was truly content with my life before, not having learned that firsthand. I thought I was healthy before and compassionate and grateful. But I didn't even know what lay beyond all of this. That's why this is called Monamorphosis, as in metamorphosis. This blog is based on my experience with Lyme disease but it is not about the Lyme so much as the process of transformation that has taken place. And it truly has and continues...and there are dark days and there are amazing days, and riding this rollercoaster is the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. And I'm not finished with treatment.

All of you know I cannot write anything under 600 paragraphs so if you made it this far, thank you for taking the time!!! And thank you for being there for me. And I LOVE YOU.


  1. Mona, this blog is amazing! I have spent a good part of my day reading your story and I have to say that it is very inspiring!

    I have suffered with this disease my entire life, but didn't find out it was lyme until last October...a very bittersweet moment...

    You have put into words many of the things I have thought and felt throughout this struggle. I am still struggling, having to ditch the PICC after a blood clot, but like you, I have hope that this will be over soon! I know I have become a different person and I look at life in a completely different way! I will emerge on the other side of this as a better, more grateful person!

    You are such an inspiration, and I admire your courage! Thanks for sharing your story...I know it takes massive amounts of effort and energy to do this, and it means so much that you choose to share it with all of us here in cyber space!

    Thanks Mona, and like you wrote in the card to me a while back, "Stay strong beautiful warrior!"

    Sending lots of love-


  2. Thanks Kristie, those words mean so much. Love love love to you. - Mona