In the beginning I ran sprints. I would run 150 yards at a dead sprint, walk for awhile, run another 150 yards and so on. I ran 4 or 5 of these 3-4 mornings a week, and the other mornings I walked two miles (to give my legs to rest). Then I was diagnosed with lung disease, and the doctor told me no more than a slow jog (max heart rate 130). So for a year or two I ran a very slow jog (not much faster than a brisk walk). But my arthritis didn’t like the jogging, so for the past 6 months or so I’ve been walking only (plus going to the gym). Normally, it is okay but I am missing the jogging this week, something just a little faster paced than a walk.
It’s okay. I will survive. I will never forget the six months of being allowed no more than a casual walk (heart rate below 100) and how great it felt when the doctor increased my heart rate allowance to a brisk walk. I will also never forget that I had a 50% chance of living the rest of my life with an oxygen tank. But it’s also okay to yearn a little bit for a jog. I’m sure next week this feeling/wish will have passed.
As the lung disease dug in 5 years ago, one of the things I remember very well were the menacing and daily heachaches. I was gulping IB profen a lot back then (before my diagnosis) so I could think well enough to work. The past few years I’ve been on Nabumetome, which essentially killed the headaches. But now that I am off Nabumetome for this past week, the headaches are creeping back. I had my first one a few days ago, and a decent one settled in yesterday afternoon. Today it started early, and it is crawling deep inside my head, behind the lower part of my forehead and back behind my left eye. I am hanging in there for the moment, but I am struggling to retain my thought and what used to happen is a slight stutter would settle in (unnoticeable to most because I was able to disguise it as a momentary brain fart by going quiet for a few moments).
I am pretty certain that if I licked strangers’ hands, licked food off any surface (regardless of how clean that surface was), ate random things in the yard and licked my butt/feet that I would expect to come down with some serious ailments that would cut into my life expectancy. And our dogs do all these things on a daily basis. Is it any wonder that our 11 year old Yellow Lab is starting to show some serious age and dementia? Poor guy…
After surviving (for the foreseeable future) a potential fatal lung disease, I don’t believe there is an after life. I’ve had too many surgeries where there is literally no passage of time — where I am talking to the nurses on the way to operating room then literally it is suddenly 4 hours later and I am in recovery room but it doesn’t even feel like a moment later — to let me think I’ll be alert after death. But at the same time, any previous fears of death I might have had are gone — I am not afraid of death, it being simply a phase of life. Do I want to die? Gosh, no! But I don’t fear it, and the one time I was choking and thought that I was going to die I simply thought, “So this is it,” with detached curiosity. I find that strange – I should be more afraid of death than ever. But it is a marvelous gift, to enjoy life yet not fear death… I feel blessed in that way… Of course, I hope I am wrong, and that there is an afterlife – I certainly am not an expert and respect anyone’s opinion who disagrees.
I never thought I’d go to therapy but went for 2 years following the shock of battling a life threatening disease that stabilized but left me exhausted. The therapy not only got my life back on track but gave me EQ life skills that I continue to use. For example, I was not invited to my childhood friend’s wedding last week – considering he was the best man in my wedding and to my knowledge we didn’t have a falling out, that was surprising. But the skills I learned in therapy has helped me keep it in perspective, although it has been quite some time since I finished therapy.
Wife M hasn’t been feeling well for a few months, and said last night that I’ve been inspirational for her since for the past 5 years I’ve kept plugging away despite not feeling well while coping with the effects of stable lung disease. For some reason, I really appreciated that comment, probably because I respect her so much… Three people have unsolicitedly called me inspirational where it truly meant something because they know me so well and it was an uninvited comment: my wife, doctor and therapist… It reminds me of when I was in college, and every time I was called “cute” I rolled my eyes (is that even a word anymore?), but the one time I overheard someone calling me gorgeous it resonated, maybe because it was a strong word, unsolicited or just different (unexpected). Of course, that was 25 years ago and I can’t recall the last time I heard someone call me cute or gorgeous, thank goodnesss :).
I did something I would have thought unthinkable to me 5 years ago – gave a hungry person two protein bars and 10 dollars… He didn’t say thank you, but then again I didn’t do it for the thank you – I did it because he was hungry and few things are worse than hunger…. It has been nearly 5 years since I survived lung disease with a 50 percent mortality rate, and I just can’t get over that awesome feeling of compassion that that experience gave me since before my disease I would have judged (and not helped) that man. Every day I feel grateful that for the first time in my life I understand there are people who will never be in a position to take care of themselves.
Without having experienced the inexplicable chronic fatigue that came (and persists) with my disease, I would have never felt the warmth of compassion. How strange life is. I was given such a wonderful thing by such an awful (and freaky) disease.
Every time I see my lung doctor (pulmonologist), I thank him for saving my life. I should be thanking him for the gift of compassion….