Thursday, January 22, 2009


I found myself having an unexpected conniption fit the other day.

I was talking with a friend about how much better I felt these days. I feel strong, doing push ups. I feel enduring, being able to run or walk or bike for half an hour. My skin feels more supple, looks clearer, is silky to the touch. I can breathe. I can run. I can walk up and down several flights of stairs.

"Guess it's true, what they say," she says. "If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything."

Cue explosion. Mt. Saint Lynn is blowing her top. Better evacuate.

Obviously, I'm better now, but I've been sick. And not like "oh, I have a cold," sick, but "I am going to die from this" sick.

Go ahead, look up COPD. I'll wait.

Sick. Every day of my life, for the better part of the years between 1992 and 2003. Eleven years. Eleven years where I spent a lot of time in emergency rooms. Wracked up tens of thousands of dollars of hospital bills. Ended up in ICU a few times. One time was so bad, we were pretty convinced that I was never going home again.

I learned not to laugh, because laughing could trigger a bad spell. I barely exercised, if I could possibly manage to avoid it. Cleaning my house was a major exertion, and tended to stir up dust that just aggravated my condition.

I was mildly terrified, all the time. I couldn't be more than 10 feet away from my inhaler or I got nervous, and when I got nervous, my breathing got worse. (As a note, an inhaler is supposed to contain enough doses to last for a month. I rarely lasted ten days before I needed a new one.)

And yet... in all that time; I had good friends. I got married. I had a life. I wrote two novels.

In 2002, I met a man who saved my life. My pulminologist. He took me and my disease seriously. He helped me control it, instead of it controlling me. And he didn't just treat me as an extension of my disease. He treated all parts of my life; everything from job and marriage-related stress to supporting my weight loss efforts to minimizing environmental effects.

I'm better. Healthy. My lung capacity is normal.

Yes, I still have an inhaler, and unfortunately, I still use it (generally when I'm working out) but he believes that will get better in time.

And yet, I still remember, acutely, what being seriously ill is like.

Yes, being ill takes a lot of time. Yes, being ill colors every part of your life.

But it wasn't nothing.

And damn, I hate it when people act like everything that happened during that period was worthless. Because I wasn't healthy.

Yeah, bite me.

(And just for your viewing pleasure, here's one of the best pictures of me I've seen in a long time... Yes, I know it's the back of my head, but still... I really like it.)


Hanlie said...

It's not a bad picture at all! I love the clip and your hair color is so rich and luxurious...

I hear you, my friend! Just as I hate it when people say I've "wasted" the last 13 years because I was fat. We're talking about my life here! It had value at every weight!

* said...

Do not blame you for liking the picture, your hair is beautiful. Gotta love a butterfly clip (I like dragonflies also).
Think a lot of people are just uncomfortable about illness. Just easier for them to try and focus on being healthy then they are back in their safety zone. Still it hurts having ones experience glossed over. No time is ever worthless.

Richard Crawford said...

Yikes! Well, as a lifelong asthmatic, I can sort of sympathize with your experience of COPD. At least my asthma attacks can be reversed when they come along.

I'm glad you're doing well, though. And I agree with the others; that hair looks awesome.

Nina said...

The trouble is, I think it has a lot to do with how you handle illness. My husband has been really ill, mostly incapacitated, for about a year now, and I think he'd really say, without your health, you have nothing. To him, everything becomes all about that.

To me, there's a lot more to life, even if you're not healthy in the way that you want to be. And you'd better use that time, because you never know how much of it you have. But some people just can't see it that way.

Diana Swallow said...

Love the clip!

I think some people should wear a sign that says my foot is frequently in my mouth. COPD at your age is a lot to deal with and I'm so glad you've finally found a doctor who has helped you reclaim your life and your health.

Now lets talk about that middle aged housewife comment you left on my are only 36!! I'm 42, what does that make me? So far gone over the hill no one is even looking for me any more?? LOL :::hugs:::