My feet were throbbing by the time I made it up the hill from the bus stop, across a small park, and to my front door after working a nine hour day. The temperature, which was about 30 degrees, was causing my hip and knees to ache as well. All I wanted to do was get inside my home and take a nap before New Year’s rolled in.
To be clear, I have no aversion to having fun but even when I was younger, and slightly healthier, I rarely stayed up to watch the ball drop. As my autoimmune disease progressed, damaging my organs and my joints, seeing midnight on December 31st was less and less likely. Missing everyone shouting, “Happy New Year,” was normal for me.
I knew it was likely I’d be tucked in before Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy started their countdown on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve because I reached my cul-de-sac at 7:30 p.m. The only thing in the way of me hitting the sheets was my need to hobble up the twelve stairs to my front door.
I winced with every step but I made it to the top landing. Then, I nearly tripped over a bulge under my door mat. Sticking out from the edge were three packages, one was fed ex and two others were from UPS. I bent over, grabbed the trio of packages and fumbled to open the door. I paused momentarily when my steel door swung open revealing yet another staircase.
I took a few deep breaths and started up the stairs, struggling to hold on to my work bag and mail while leaning on the bannister for stability. Finally, less than two minutes later I made it over to my dining room table and sat down my parcels. I then reached down, unzipped my boot, allowing my feet to feel a slight bit of relief. I delayed removing my feet completely because the searing pain shooting from my toes through place where my arch should be made me not want to do anything to make my discomfort any worse.
So, I stood there with the top of my mid-calf boots hanging down as I began opening my packages. The first two from UPS were exactly what I thought they were, screener copies of movies. As a member of the WGA East receiving the potential Oscar nominated movies for free at the holidays are one of the few perks we receive. I sat those on the table then turned my attention to the third parcel.
I studied the address on the packaging and couldn’t imagine what was inside. I hadn’t order anything since Christmas. None of the few people I call a friend told me they’d sent me anything so I was truly perplexed.
I slowly peeled open the padded bag and noticed a small blue jewelry box siting at the bottom. Up against the side, next to the exposed bubble wrap was a piece of paper. I decided to remove that first, hoping it would give me a clue about who sent something to me.
The note said it all. It read: “You continue to be a voice and light for others despite your own personal struggles. You are truly an inspiration to us all and we are bless to have you another year.” It was signed from one of my best friends. Although Karen and I no longer work at the same job or live within a reasonable driving distance, she remains a constant in my life. But, the gift was totally unexpected.
My hand trembled slightly as I reached into the bottom of the Fed Ex pouch to see what in the small box. It was a silver and leather bracelet that said simply, Be Brave.
That’s it, I thought; that’s my inspiration for 2015. I will live up to the thoughts and wishes I and others have for me by being brave.
I had tried to be brave in 2014 as I faced walking pneumonia, esophagus and stomach surgery and took drugs to shrink a pituitary gland tumor. But, after all these medical setbacks, I’d given up in the last few weeks, choosing to ignore a tumor growing on the left side of my neck. I pretended it was a muscle pulls or some sort of anomaly that would vanish rather than accept it could be another bad lymph node that might have to be cut out.
I’d already allowed a surgeon to carve up the right side of my neck four times for lymph node biopsies due to the suspicion of lymphoma. I’d sat by the phone waiting to hear whether I’d be fighting for my life in 2012, 2013 and 2014. So, I’d hope that 2015 would be my first year without a huge medical battle. But, when I saw that bracelet, I knew. I knew that I might have more physical struggles ahead but I am well equipped to face them because not only do I vow to be brave but I have a whole host of friends and family who will bravely stand by me while I fight on.
About the author:
Nika C. Beamon attended Boston College in Massachusetts. She is currently a TV News Writer/Producer in New York.
She released her highly praised memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House in 2014. In 2009, Chicago review press published her first non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married: Successful Single Black Women Speak Out. She’s also the author of two mystery novels, Dark Recesses (2000) and Eyewitness (2002)
Happy New Year