I combined this week’s Writing on Wednesday exercise with my Blog Series post Living Life With a Major Illness. The exercise today is to write a story from your life. And remember: it has to be 100% true, but it doesn’t have to be 100% of the truth. There’s a difference. The keywords are: The Fight. This is my fight!
Living Life With a Major Illness
Over the course of the past year, I have noticed a proverbial theme emerge when it comes to living life with a major illness:
For Every One Step Forward, I Take Two Steps Back
This is something I have struggled with since my diagnosis. Every time I take a step forward, I seem to take two steps back soon thereafter. Since I began noticing this, I’ve stepped back and am looking at things from a different perspective. (I am sharing my experiences so people can understand something; If I can survive all of this with a positive attitude, anyone can make it through the most difficult circumstances that life may bring).
I am never surprised anymore. Receiving bad news comes with the territory of having a terminal illness. Especially with how rare my disease is, I never know what will happen next. But, having this attitude doesn’t always keep me mentally strong.
To keep a positive attitude while living life with a major illness, you must embrace the importance of acceptance. You have to believe life will improve and get through the five stages of grief. If you get stuck on a step other than acceptance, it can cause catastrophic consequences in the long term.
As my illness has progressed, I have had to accept a lot. Here are some of my examples:
In February 2011, I underwent a surgical lung biopsy. I was diagnosed with a terminal illness called bronchiolitis obliterans. After a month, my oxygen saturation had dropped sharply, causing me to be put on oxygen for the rest of my life. This was incredibly difficult to move past the anger stage, but realizing it’s not curable made it easier to accept. Then other issues started appearing.
Blood tests showed I had an extremely high cholesterol and triglyceride count. I was put on two medications and altered my diet to extremely health food. This corrected the problem, but I began having severe tachycardia.
My lungs, lacking the ability to provide oxygen to my body, started putting a lot of pressure on my heart. It was causing a condition called hypoxemia. At its worst, my resting heart rate was 160 bpm (beats per minute). Finally after trying multiple doses of a heart medicine, this problem was under control. Then came depression.
Depression can be crippling when you face a severe illness. It blocks your ability to think clearly and can annihilate your long-term outlook. I spoke to my pastor and a psychologist. I was put on anti-depressants. They all led me to spending time in scripture, time in prayer, and better communication with my wife. Doing these things consistently put me back on the right path. Then I ended up hospitalized with pleurisy.
Pleurisy feels like your having a constant heart attack with every breathe. Absolutely excruciating pain. In order to kill the infection, the doctors placed me on a high dose of steroids. Unfortunately, a side effect of steroids is weight gain. I gained over 50 pounds in just under two weeks. Even with my healthy diet, the inability to do physical activity makes it nearly impossible for me to lose the weight. After a month break, another condition struck: swollen lymph nodes.
The lymph nodes in my neck, armpits, and groin all became swollen. The most painful was the one in my neck. Eating and drinking became difficult. Every time I tried to swallow my food, it hurt. After a course of antibiotics, the swelling subsided. Finally, my most recent medical anomaly has taken hold: Tumors in both of my knees.
Having the appearance of large golf balls in the back of my knees, these tumors have doctors confused. They aren’t my lymph nodes like we previously had thought. So what are they? First, some good news. Needle biopsies have shown they are benign and are simply fatty tumors. But why have they appeared so randomly and quickly? The answers are still being searched for.
In the mean time, I am suffering from horrendous knee pain. Two weeks ago, I was given a cortisone injection and instead of helping, it has increased the pain tenfold. Walking is nearly impossible now without assistance and pain medications. This also becomes a problem for my lung disease because my lack of mobility decreases my lung function. It is vital I get to a doctor who can help.
Everything I just described has happened in a six month time span. Changes have happened so rapidly, I’ve had a difficult time comprehending the magnitude of it all. But, I feel God has a purpose for everything, so I take it all in stride. Things may appear bleak, but I am only able to see what God shows me: the present. Living in the here and now is what pushes me on to each day. I’ll stay strong and continue to help others, which helps me in return.
I want all my readers to understand that anything can be overcome. God provides the strength needed to conquer all situations.
If anyone needs some inspiration or advice, I’m no expert, but am willing to help where I can. Please feel free to use the contact form to reach me and I will respond within 24 hours. Thank you and God Bless!