In May 2007, the week before I started my second semester of massage school, I had a TIA or mini stroke. This started me on the road to discovery that I had a hole in my heart and eventually to the fact I have heart failure.
I had a barrage of tests, MRIs, x-rays, blood tests, CT scans,you name it. I had to arrange to do all of this in between days I had classes, and all the time I kept it quiet. I told no one in the school.
As May became June, and June became July, it became apparent I needed surgery to close a hole in my heart. The semester would come to an end at the end of July, but I needed to leave a couple of weeks early to do some final tests before the surgery.
I told my massage instructor what was happening with me because I was no longer allowed to receive massages and had to sit out when I was scheduled to be massaged. Her name was Joyce.
When I sat out, Joyce would put me on a massage table as the rest of the class did their practice, and she would do energy work on me. During one of those sessions, she told me all about her own heart surgery which she had a few years prior. The sheath around her heart had hardened and they literally had to peel it away from the rest of the heart, as she described it, like a tangerine.
After I left in July for summer break, I fully expected to return in September for my third semester, but I found out I had heart failure and needed a defibrillator, so I took a year’s leave of absence. Joyce would email me on a regular basis to see how I was doing and give me support. I went to school with 18 other people in my class, all of whom claimed to be so sad to see me go and “promised” to keep in touch. I never heard from any of them after I took the leave of absence, but an instructor, who I never even hung out with, was taking the time to email me and send words of encouragement.
Then one day Joyce emailed me and told me she needed a liver transplant and was getting one, and even though she was now going into a scary phase of her life, she wanted to know how I was doing, how I was coping with my problems.
All the while she waited for her new liver, Joyce would send me joke emails and emails that inspired, and always, she wanted to know how I was doing.
Joyce eventually received her liver transplant and was doing well. A year had passed and I returned to school only to come to the end of the semester and learn I had pulmonary hypertension and they wanted to do another heart catherization. I decided to withdraw from the school.
Joyce was diagnosed with cancer after that and all the while we emailed back and forth and she always wanted to know how I was doing, how I was holding up. She was going through her own hell with chemotherapy, but took the time to email me regularly.
Joyce passed away in August 2009. I never got to go her funeral as I only found out she passed on the day after the funeral. I don’t think her family was aware she was emailing me, and I heard it through a friend. I hate funerals. I am not afraid of death. I just dislike the sad energy. I really regret that I did not get to go to hers and pay my respects to someone so wonderful. She was definitely an angel in disguise.
I do think of Joyce on occasion, and yesterday I was having doubts about returning to massage school. I was starting to question if I could really do it and try for a third time. I have been out for two years and wondered if I could remember all that I learned already. Last night as I went to bed I asked the universe to give me a sign that I should return to massage school.
This morning I received an email with no subject and it was from Joyce. The email body was just a link to a web site. I did not click the link as I figured that her email account was hijacked by a hacker and sending out links to a computer virus. I know that Joyce did not send me an email from beyond. Or did she?
All too often we assume that certain people will have our backs, but when it comes down to the actual battle, those people turn tail and run. It’s often those that we think least likely to be there for us that stands right by your side and braces you as the wave comes rushing in. Joyce was one of those unique individuals, and although I never got a chance to in person, I want to say to you Joyce that many people have entered my life and left, but by far you are one of the brilliant few that has left a positive mark on it. Your emails and jokes and words of inspiration helped me through one of the toughest phases in my life, and helped to teach me how to face more that was to come. You are a star shining bright, and I will always remember you fondly and with great love. Rest now my friend.
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