For a while now, I’ve been recovering from a ravaging lung fungus called Blastomycosis. I always thought of myself as a seasoned adult, wise to the world. In the past few months, I wasn’t prepared for the realization of how much I had yet to learn about life. Take a walk, will you, in my shoes and through my eyes?
Normally, I am a strong female. But when I was fungus-filled in the hospital, taking mega-doses of pain medication, I was weak. As soon I was lucid and off morphine, I was very frightened to realize that during that time span, I was unable to care. The drugs take away your pain, but they also take away your consciousness and free-will. I remember the room swirling, my heavy eyelids drooping, barely able to stay awake long enough to hold my little daughter or converse with my worried husband--thinking I might die…and not being able to fight for my own life. Lesson 1: Sometimes you need to feel the pain.
Some drugs, however, don’t make you apathetic and work to fight the enemy within. Medicines that work against lung funguses are harsh and cause other things to happen inside. I now have dry (like a reptile) skin, flatulence (like-- don't invite me over) and massive, yet temporary, hair loss. All these conditions I accept. Prior to my illness, I thought that losing hair due to chemo therapy was a terrible thing---it is to some, but—SURPRISE--for this lifesaving drug, one that has returning my lungs to near-normal and given me a chance to live again, I say, “Out, damn hair!” In exchange for the air that I breathe, my hairs (especially the grey ones) are a minimal offering. Lesson 2: Yet another nudge that “looks” are superficial.
I am not a scientist, doctor or researcher, but thank God some super-intelligent people are. I owe my life to doctors clever enough to diagnose and treat what ailed me. I bow to those who create and test medicines. I must have said 100 times in the past how much I dislike doctors--I’m always second guessing them and double-checking the Internet for my symptoms. Lesson 3: There ARE people who know more than you do--trust them!
I have also learned that air ROCKS! Air is fantastic!! When you can’t breath and you’re coughing till you pee, air is the most delicious thing in the world. It doesn’t need to be “Fresh Spring” flavored either— just plain air is sweet enough. I inhale deeply about 50 times a day now… just because I can. Lesson 4: This is an easy one…the best things in life are free.
There are dozens of people who helped my family. Some cooked meals, gave up vacation days, cleaned, made sure my daughter got off to school with her hair brushed and some who checked on me every day. I got many get well cards; each one I genuinely appreciated. While I was a thoughtful person before all this—now, quadrupled is my empathy towards others in need. From now on I will offer to help anyone I know is sick. I will also be brave and ask sick people, “How are you doing?” and not be afraid of bringing up an awkward subject. Most people want to tell their story—I know I did. I am in awe, truly, of those with guts enough to tackle the most treacherous treatments for the most treacherous diseases—it takes more courage than I ever realized. Lesson 5: Don’t ask, “Should I help?”…just help.
I will not let a disease beat me down again. I have new awareness of anti-bodies, good cholesterol and free-radicals, all of which can help arm my body against anything. I need to eat food that helps my body be strong. This food will not always taste great to me. Instead of dieting or making a lifestyle change to look better, I will forever more think of eating properly and nutritiously as building up a defense against an unknown, unexpected fight. I don’t know why I got sick, but if it ever happens again, I’ll have a body full of tiny army men, prepared to kill. Lesson 6: Eat your spinach!
All these lessons I’ve heard before. A few, I’ve even lived before. You still have room to grown into an even better person—I did. Take a deep breath and ready yourself for the challenge.