Sunday, June 21, 2015

Behind the Scenes at the Mr. Rob Thomas Concert

I absolutely loved the Mr. Rob Thomas concert in Indy this past Tuesday evening.  I counted down to it on my Facebook wall and in my Twitter feed for 67 days.  It was one of the most exciting events I have ever attended, and I describe it to my friends as "perfect."  I am, if you can't tell by now, a HUGE Mr. Rob Thomas and MB20 fan.  Always have been.  The first concert I ever attended in my life was a Matchbox 20 concert in Fort Wayne a couple of years ago, at the age of 46!  I got to meet the band and had pictures taken with all of them.  Beyond exciting!  So, needless to say, I was highly motivated to attend this concert and looked forward to it from the day I heard about it.  Couldn't wait to show off my pictures after it was over.  Almost everyone has seen them by now.  But what they haven't seen, and what I haven't let them see, is what it took for me to get to that concert -- and the consequences for someone like me, living with gastroparesis or maybe another chronic illness, of undertaking an outing such as this.  They aren't privy to what happened "behind the scenes" of the concert.

It started the day I heard Mr. Thomas would be touring -- the worry, the fear, and the hope that despite the effects of my illness I might be able to attend.  You see, because of my gastroparesis, I cannot eat, and this causes all sorts of issues that most other people never have to experience.  Every time I consider going to an event, I fear that I will be too sick to actually attend.  I don't like dealing with that disappointment, but what I like even less is disillusioning the friends with whom I have looked forward to enjoying the evening.  I have let them down so many times already that I am surprised they agree to include me in anything.  But I have good friends, friends who understand and are sympathetic to my plight.  They tolerate my shortcomings.

When I am 67 days away from the concert, I can pretty successfully ignore my worries and fears, but as the days fly by, it becomes more difficult.  I know that during the week or two before the concert, I will have to eat less.  If there is any chance of making it there, I must eat as little as possible so that the likelihood of nausea and pain on the actual concert day will be lessened.  Food equals pain and nausea, and that equals missed events.  So, I limit my already meager intake of sustenance even further.  By concert week, I am pretty run down.

The night before the concert, I eat and drink practically nothing, and on concert day, I eat nothing at all, not a single bite, and drink only what is necessary to keep me from being dehydrated -- can't chance missing Mr. Thomas and disappointing my friends.  I am drained from days of food deprivation, and this day is almost unbearable.  I find I am shaky, dizzy, and weak.  Every time I walk into the kitchen and see the food, I long to take just a bite.  I make my family lunch, and I can smell the food.  I want so badly to sit down with them and eat just a little.  If I do, though, I will be in agony.  I will get nauseous, be in excruciating pain, and likely bloat up to the size of a 9-month pregnant woman.  I am miserable, but I am determined.  I hardly ever go out, and I know I won't get this chance again anytime soon.  I suck it up and move on.

I pick out an outfit and start getting ready to go.  As I comb my hair (which continues to thin due to malnutrition), I take a good look in the mirror.  I think I am hideous.  I look like a skeleton.  I barely recognize the person staring back at me, and I hate what I have become.  I can comb her hair, put a nice outfit and makeup on her, but I cannot make her what she was a year ago.  I cannot change this.  It saddens me, but I do the best I can and try to convince myself that I won't scare small children with my appearance.

My husband and I decide to arrive at the venue a little early because I really would like to get a picture with Mr. Thomas.  There is a slim chance of this, but I am willing to give it a go.  It is scorching outside, and this adds to my misery.  Hot, weak, and shaky -- not a good combination.  My husband helps steady me.  The security guards at the venue are incredibly friendly and helpful (really!).  They point to a spot where I can wait for Mr. Thomas, and I stand there for a bit until he finally arrives.  (Yep, I got sunburn, too!)  He is such a gentleman, so friendly, and he lets us take a picture.  Yay!  Success!  Despite my hunger and weakness, the day is wonderful so far! We meet up with our friends and prepare for the concert.

As I stand outside the closed doors to the auditorium, my legs shake with weakness.  My husband holds onto me and reassures me that we will be able to sit soon and that I WILL make it.  I can smell popcorn in the lobby, and I long to have some.  I love popcorn, but I haven't been able to eat it (not even a bite) in more than a year.  People pass by enjoying this delicious, buttery treat, but I can only watch -- and savor the smells.  I am thankful when the doors finally open so that I can focus on something else.  We have front-row center seats this evening, and I will be able to concentrate on only what is in front of me -- the stage and the band!  No crowd-watching from this point on, and I am glad.

I concentrate on appearing as and behaving like a "normal" person.  I do not want anyone to know I am sick.  I don't want my friends to worry.  I don't want to take away from their enjoyment of the evening.  I don't want to cause a scene.  I silently pray that I will not vomit or faint or reveal in any way that I believe I am at the end of my rope here.  I smile, laugh, and joke as if nothing at all is wrong.  I am happy, and I want it to be that way, so I pretend, and sheer will-power gets me through.

I enjoy the opening acts (Vinyl Station, which is a fantastic group, and the Plain White Ts), but I am actually thankful when their portion of the show ends because I am wearing down quickly, and I want to see Mr. Thomas perform.  When Mr. Thomas takes the stage, I disregard all the difficulties it took to get here.  I ignore my weak, shaky legs, which I can no longer really feel and which can barely hold me at this point.  I grab onto the stage floor in front of me and I thoroughly enjoy the next 2 hours.  (I had to sit a couple of times, but, for the most part, I made it!)  For just a brief spell, I forget all the agony and worries in my life.  I delight in the time I have with my friends and spouse.  I relax and let go of my pain for a bit.  I know I will pay for this later, but at this moment, I do not care.  It has been months since I have been out for anything other than a medical appointment or mundane errand, and I am having fun -- fun -- not something we experience in our house very frequently anymore.  I am ecstatic.

All too soon, and yet way too late, the concert ends.  As I make my way back to the car, leaning heavily on my husband to steady myself, I begin to think about the consequences of this evening out.  Tomorrow I will pay for this dearly.  I spent weeks preparing for this and many days depriving myself of even the basics, knowing that when this was all over, I would be in worse shape because of it.  I know that tonight I will collapse, and tomorrow I will have to begin to try to erase the ill effects of this evening and the rough days leading up to it.  I will eat what little I can tomorrow, and it will be harder than usual to tolerate it.  I will begin to try to make up for the calories I have lost, but I know I will never be able to.  It doesn't work like that.  I will suffer from exhaustion and pain from pushing myself considerably beyond my limits.  But most of all, I will face the mental anguish of knowing that my life must return to this "new normal" -- to this place where I am homebound, where I must spend every day trying to balance my physical need for food against the pain it causes me, where I must deny myself the basic needs everyone else takes for granted because I cannot live with the agony it causes me when I partake, and where I spend all my days online advocating for others who must live with this disease.

But tonight?  Tonight I am "Overjoyed."  :)

All of us before the concert
My best friends and I

My husband and I
Mr. Thomas - from the front row!
Yep, I got my picture!
Front row with my sister & best friend
I am happy!

Me with Mr. Thomas 2 years ago


  1. Ms Melissa, thank you for taking us "Behind the scenes" it is so hard and heartbreaking! I say this even while knowing, as you were doing your countdown I was going through "the process" with you! I did not know about the outside portion of the concert, but I knew the effort and steps you were going to have to take to get there. I hope your writing reaches many who do not know what it takes for us to do anything! I just missed my grandson's second birthday party due to health. We never know when we will end up canceling something. Then the anxiety it creates because we have no control over whether it will stop any event in our lives. Again Thank you for taking us on a journey with you for Gastroparesis Awareness to create a change to hopefully attain treatments through research and eventually a cure!

    1. Thank you so much, Ms. Deb. I am so very sorry about your missed birthday party. Makes it incredibly tough for us and them. It is hard not to feel guilty. I know it is out of our control -- know that in my head -- but in my heart, it hurts when I miss things. We will get there, Ms. Deb! Someday they will find a cure for us, and then I am going to come see you, and we are going to celebrate -- with food! :)