Six years ago today, I started to collect ribbons. I didn't plan on collecting ribbons. That was the furthest thing from my mind. I was a nondescript wife, mother and teacher who was simply caught up in the normal business of life.
I was about to leave for school that morning when I decided to check my email. That moment is forever etched in my mind. I saw that I had a test result back from a routine mammogram. I accessed my electronic medical record expecting to see what I always saw. My readings were normal and come back for another one next year. Instead the words "there is a spiculating mass in the left breast" jumped out at me and my life has never been the same.
I wasn't supposed to have learned of it like that. The clinic had tried to reach me earlier but had failed. No one had left a message for me to call them. When it was learned that I had been able to access this information online, the organization which provides my health care scrambled to take steps that none of their patients would never get the news this way ever again. I'm glad they won't. This is the sort of news you should get when you are sitting down and someone is holding your hand.
My family had thrown a surprise birthday party for me the night before. I remember wondering if I would celebrate another birthday ever again. I just celebrated my sixth birthday post cancer treatment and I praise God for that but I continued to collect ribbons.
This new ribbon was burgundy and it is the ribbon of a brain aneurysm survivor. It wasn't as "popular" or as well-known as the pink ribbon. While it was a few days before I knew for certain that I had been given a pink ribbon, this one was pinned to me while I was asleep. In fact, it would be six days before I knew I had it and even then I couldn't fully comprehend it.
There are a lot of people walking around with pink ribbons. It is not unusual for me to run into a "sister" wearing a pink ribbon. Unfortunately, I don't run into many people wearing burgundy ribbons. Thankfully, though, there are more of us today than there have ever been before.
Though I had no warning signs whatsoever, this ribbon is usually preceeded by what is called, "The Worst Headache In The World". If you are suddenly stricken with an unbelievably severe headache, please do not ignore it. Please, please, please call for help immediately and without delay for you may have a brain bleed!
On August 9, 2013, I awakened to find that another ribbon had been pinned to me. This time there were no emails, no phone calls and no strangers bursting into my room in the middle of the night. This one loudly announced it's presence to me when I opened my eyes that morning.
I was puzzled by this one and thought perhaps I had hurt myself and it would go away as soon as I healed. It is still here. In fact, examinations which included an MRI as well as an MRA failed to reveal the reason for my unbelievable pain. The symptoms were unmistakable to my doctor though. I had fallen victim to a rare, little- understood and very painful neurological condition which is nicknamed "The Suicide Disease". I have trigeminal neuralgia.
While this disease is not fatal, it causes many of it's victims to pray for death. The treatment options have a poor success rate and due to the rarity of the condition (it is estimated that between 150,000-400,000 people in the US have it for it is often misdiagnosed as TMJ or other dental problems) there hasn't been much research on it until recently. Thankfully, there is new public awareness of it along with some dedicated researchers who hope to find a cure by 2020.
I have mentioned the "physical" ribbons that I wear but I wear many others and so do you. Some are visible, while others are invisible. Nevertheless, they are still there.
Often times the enemy will point at our "ribbons" and tell us that we are "weak" and "sick". We are "losers" whom God has abandoned with disgust. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our ribbons declare our weakness. Our ribbons declare that despite that weakness, God is bigger and He has brought us through many things. Our ribbons declare that Jesus is Victor! Our ribbons give hope to those who see them. The God who transforms us into a "survivor" can and will do the same thing for them.
Burgundy Ribbon: By Jarick098/Wikimedia Commons
Teal Ribbon: By MesserWoland/Wikimedia Commons