Amy Kay. Her name always reminds me of Mary Kay, the beauty care company. But no, she is an actual person. She is one of my “core” friends. We have lived hundreds of miles apart for our entire friendship, which spans nine years. But she is that friendship where we don’t have to talk every day or see each other often to know that we share a bond. She is one of the first people I would turn to if I needed something. And I am the same for her. We have gone years without seeing each other, but our friendship has never missed a beat. She has faced many different types of struggles in her life. But instead of defeating her, they have only made her stronger. She has been a model. A choreographer. She dreams of going to law school and is one of the most career oriented people I know. She is also one of the strongest people I have ever known. And her energy inspires me. I could never imagine my life without her.
A couple months ago, Amy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. For those who don’t know, MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system). So far, the disease has been progressing rather rapidly. She has been diagnosed as Stage Three. This means that the disease has spread to both her brain and spine. She currently has ten lesions on her brain and three in her spine. All of the lesions in her brain are in her frontal lobe. This is the area that controls movement, short-term memory, emotions, etc. She has become permanently blind in her left eye and is beginning to have trouble seeing out of her right. She is having trouble with her coordination and will drop things randomly. Some days when she wakes up, she cannot move her legs and, therefore, cannot walk. She has permanent numbness and tingling on her right side and has lost sensation in her fingertips. This once strong, independent dancer is beginning to become incapacitated. She is only 27 years old.
Yesterday, Amy came into town and so she came over to my house to hang out. On the outside, she looks the same. But when I looked into her eyes, I saw the exhaustion from the many treatments and hospital visits that she has endured in the last couple months. We talked about how scared she is. About how much of an adjustment her life has become. We both cried and held each other. When we first met nine years ago, we both had aspirations to join the FBI. Over the years, our dreams and directions changed. In most recent years she has discussed going to law school and the steps she needed to take to make that happen. Last night, we talked about the odds of her being able to walk in ten years. We also talked about the odds of her becoming completely blind. This was conversation I never imagined having with her while we were both still in our 20s.
I remained as strong as possible because I knew she needed that from me. But inside, it’s killing me. I feel completely helpless. There is no cure for this disease and nothing I can do to make it better. I cannot even offer to be by her side because of the miles between us. I can’t hold her hand through every treatment or stay up with her at night when the medication she is on makes her unbelievably sick. I cannot even tell her that everything is going to be ok, because I don’t know if it will be. And I’m not going to lie to her. No one knows if it will be ok, not even her doctors.
The thought of losing her terrifies me. I have dealt with a lot of loss in my life. But never someone that I am this close too who is my age. The rapid progression of the disease is terrifying. This weekend trip that she took here felt almost as if she was saying goodbye. Just wanting some final memories to store away. One of the texts she sent to me the night before she came over stated that she wanted to “spend as much time with me as possible”. She has never spoken like that before. Where I currently live is her hometown so she still has lots of friends that live here. So previously, if she would make trips here, it would all be preplanned and we would try to meet up if it was possible. If not, that was fine, we would just wait until the next time we would see each other. This trip was different. It was completely spontaneous. And it felt like there was a sense of urgency to see each other and spend time together. At the beginning of the weekend, she went to one of her favorite places with her best friends from high school. It was a place that she told me weeks ago that she wanted to visit before she went blind. She wanted to be able to remember the beauty that the world held just in case she was never able to see it again. That was the only place they went to. Then when I got those cryptic texts from her, my world began to shatter. I began to see her visit in a different light. And it overwhelmed me emotionally.
My grandma visited me and my parents three months before her death. During that visit, I had this overwhelming feeling that this was going to be the last time I saw her. The feeling was irrational as my grandma was very healthy for her age and had actually just had a physical exam that showed she was in great shape. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her. We had also already planned for my grandma to come back to the area six months later. So it wasn’t like I wasn’t going to see her for a while. So the feeling I had, I couldn’t explain it. I remember sitting on the couch with her talking and I just started watching the rise and fall of her chest, thinking “this is the last time I’m going to see her breathe.” The thoughts scared me. And I put it off as just me being paranoid and me being irrationally scared to lose someone, as the BPD tends to make me feel that way a lot, especially about the people that I love and care about the most. I’m absolutely terrified of losing people in my life. Whether it’s from them walking away or from death, either way, I’m always worried about it. Next to my parents, my grandma was the only true “blood” family I had in my life and she meant a lot to me. So I just thought I was worrying about nothing. Three months later, she was gone. It was a freak accident. After that, I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow I had known something was going to happen. Because, in fact, that’s exactly how I felt during her last visit. I felt like I was saying goodbye to her, even though I did not want to admit that to myself at the time. Well, with this visit with Amy, I began to feel the same way. I would like to think that I am just overreacting. That I was traumatized by what happened with my grandma and I was thinking that this was the same situation when it wasn’t. But no matter what I am telling myself, it still feels the same way.
I dropped Amy off at the airport this morning. I am terrified that that will be the last time I see her face. That will be the last time I am able to tell her that I love her in person. I even watched the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed, just like I did with my grandma. I made the most of last night. We had an awesome time just hanging out. She loved my girlfriend and, in turn, my girlfriend got along really well with her. I told her how much she meant to me. And she told me how much I meant to her. If that was our goodbye, there is nothing that has been left unsaid. So I can take comfort in that. But, the truth is, I’m not ready to say goodbye to her. I am so scared. And there is nothing I can do. I know I shouldn’t be concerned yet because she’s still here. Nothing has happened. But I just can’t shake that feeling. Because what if I am right this time too?