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Sometimes life is full of surprises and they come in the most unexpected ways. When I was first diagnosed with Sarcoidosis, it was terrifying. For a little over a year, I was a pin cushion for the medical community to poke, prod and ponder over. And as often happens during the process of diagnosis for this disease, I received a cancer scare. During this entire time I was very sick with wildly hot and shivering fevers, coughing spells equal to volcanic eruptions and pains in my chest and back beyond description.

Once I received my diagnosis, I was both relieved that it wasn’t cancer and uncertain about the future. To hear that you have a “rare” disease is unnerving to say the least. And when everything you “Google” about it says that it goes into remission after a couple of years only to learn that this often does not actually happen was disheartening.

I was getting weaker with each passing day. I wondered how I was going to maintain my life as I had known it. Getting up every day for work, a very stressful job, was getting harder and harder. I felt like my life was slipping out of control, like Sisyphus I was not sure how I was going to get the rock up the hill. I felt a hopeless situation was upon me. I had never felt so lost or alone.

My life was changing despite all my futile efforts to keep it the same. Things at work were slipping. Things at home were neglected. Like Swiss cheese my life began to fill up with holes. I could not figure out how to stop the leaks. I’d focus in one area and all the others would gush with unfinished business and neglected opportunities. I was losing the whack a mole game badly. I no longer recognized myself. I was adrift.

It felt like the storm would never pass. Dark clouds hung all around me. I had no idea the direction this disease was taking me and I was sure the light at the end of the tunnel was in fact an oncoming train.

But it wasn’t. The light at the end of the tunnel was actually a kind of peace I never knew my life was missing while I was busy bustling about before illness took hold. The light at the end of the tunnel was one of those surprises that came in an unexpected way.

Despite all that fear, all the uncertainty that comes with learning your health is no longer in your control, all the changes I didn’t ask for came…of all things…happiness. I have a happiness now because I have a stillness in my life now and that stillness, while forced by disease, gives me peace. My mind, while less active due to brain fog and fatigue, is more present in the moment. Because I can no longer focus on six or more things at once, the one thing getting my attention gets all of my attention and this in a strange way has actually improved the quality of my life.

I have learned a lesson from having Sarcoidosis that I never would have learned if I had never gotten sick. I have learned that in stillness comes peace. And in peace comes happiness. And in happiness comes gratitude.

Today, I am grateful for stillness.

Today, I am grateful for the peace.

I still have to learn how to keep this peace but for the first time, perhaps in my life, I am happy in a way I know I never was before. I always had an intellectual understanding that I should be grateful. I have always had what I have needed and often more than I have needed to pull myself through life relatively unscathed. It hasn’t always been easy of course but I have, like a cat, always been able to land on my feet somehow.

But having an intellectual understanding of gratitude is very different from feeling it in the core of your being which is the place I find myself today. I know things now because of this disease that I never would have learned if it had never happened. And what I know is that I spent a lot of time on distracted multi-tasking behavior, splitting, dividing and hacking up my attention on too many things, most of which, looking back were not nearly as important as they seemed at the time.

Today I am forced by my illness to live with a stillness because of the fatigue and pain that come with being in an active phase of this disease. And it is this stillness that has allowed me the opportunity to be quiet. Truly and completely quiet, something I was never good at. The quiet has brought a calm and the calm has brought joy.

This of course, does not mean I am not scared about the state of my future health which I think over time will continue to deteriorate but it does mean that I have a profound understanding now of the preciousness of life and the fragility of it that is no longer fleeting. I am grounded in this knowledge now in a way I never was before and I am grateful for it.

Peace is priceless.