Writing contribution by Hayley Bustos
People who are dying have a way of revealing to you what truly matters in this life. I have been blessed with a job that grants me the privilege of caring for people at the end of their life.
I have walked with people on the agonizing journey of saying goodbye to children, parents and dreams that will never be fulfilled. I have a patient who is wheelchair bound due to Multiple Sclerosis and each time I see him I am met with a smile and an encouraging word. I once asked if he thought he was born with his optimism or if he learned it and he said,
I have never forgotten those words and they have helped me though some dark days in my own life.
The past decade I’ve had my share of pain and disappointment. I was diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis eight years ago after decades of being told “cramps are normal” and being given hormones to mask the symptoms. My diagnosis came as my husband and I were trying to conceive, and it was becoming obvious that things were not going to happen without help. I decided to have excision surgery in hopes of pain relief and conception. Two months after my surgery I became pregnant but miscarried and—although I didn’t know it then—it was the first and last time my womb would hold life. This same year my marriage also began to crumble. After 2 years of trying to hold it together and becoming sicker from the stress of it all I finally filed for a divorce. It was devastating and I wondered at times how I would ever heal from that heartbreak.
I thought leaving a toxic marriage would be the key to unlocking health and wellness, but I continued to struggle with pain and unbearable fatigue. This was a difficult thing for me to understand and I continually put pressure on myself to “fix it.” I was committed to weekly acupuncture, meditation and yoga daily, herbs, prayer, counseling and a strict anti-inflammatory diet. In the spring of 2017, a year after my divorce was final, I was experiencing severe pain and had an ultrasound that revealed my uterus was 3 times larger than it should be. I was told that adenomyosis was the likely cause, and a hysterectomy was the best option.
Over the course of three months I went back and forth between hope and anger. I continued to try to figure out what I was doing wrong and how I could heal myself. I laid awake many nights asking God to show me the way and begged him to remove this physical and emotional pain. Then I decided to try another way, I started to allow myself to sit with my grief and my anger and to not push it away. I began to tune in and asked what was underneath these intense emotions. It became clear to me that I was feeling shame and inadequacy. I wondered if it felt similar to women who feel shame because their bodies have failed them during birth and they need a C-section? Why was I holding onto my suffering so tightly? Did I feel I had to suffer for a certain period of time before waving the white flag? I also wondered what having a hysterectomy would mean for my femininity and my identity as a woman. An answer came to me in the dark one night:
An opportunity to release the pressure, fear and suffering and to step into a kinder and more gentle state of being. Having a hysterectomy would open the door but being brave enough to choose love and grace everyday would be the evidence of stepping through it.
What I have learned on this journey is that I am not broken and I do not need to be fixed. I don’t need more positive thinking or a new mantra, what I need is unconditional love and acceptance.
I start each day with a loving meditation and work hard to embrace rather than resist whatever challenges come my way. I no longer have a timeline for my healing and my focus now is to be completely in love with my life exactly as it is. I am allowing love to flow into my life from all directions and it has been the greatest healer of all.
Hayley Bustos is a Palliative Care nurse practitioner who is passionate about helping people to live and die well. She tends to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of her patients and empowers them to live their truth. She tends to her own spirit by spending time in nature with her horse Flint, and her beloved dog Hamish. She was born and raised on a small island on the East coast of Canada but now hangs her hat in the Midwest. Some of her favorite things are turquoise, pottery mugs, goats, lavender and succulents.
Connect on IG at @tideandhoney
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