Being the Good, Life Lessons and Why I Continue to Hate the Term ‘P.E.’

Being the Good, Life Lessons and Why I Continue to Hate the Term ‘P.E.’

Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been around here much or that I honestly haven’t been around much anywhere. When 2015 came to a close, I couldn’t wait for the new year to begin. There had been some health challenges off and on throughout the year, mostly chronic pain and an injury I was trying to contend with, and it also had been a year marked by loss of family and friends for both the hubs and me. No other way to say it. It was a pretty crappy year. Between everything going on, I kept to myself a lot but I vowed that in 2016, things would be different.

 

We rang in the near year, watched the glittery ball drop in the Big Apple on TV and I insisted to myself, in 2016, I would write more, I would network again, I would move on from a place of sadness and loss, and I would not be so…quiet. And then a funny thing happened.

 

Between Christmas and New Year’s, I started to have a newfound appreciation for something I had always taken for granted.

 

Breathing.

 

I wasn’t sure if I was going to write this blog. Ever. But after the past 10 weeks, I now want to. And today seemed like a good day. You see, a wonderful lady is being celebrated today by all who knew her – friends, family and strangers inspired by her. And like them, she has left a lasting impression on me.

 

You probably heard about this young Tampa Bay woman, especially if you’re one of my neighbors here in the area. News of Michelle Boyd Dejong’s passing on Valentine’s Day spread quickly, how poignant on this day of celebrating hearts that a woman with one of the biggest hearts and most generous spirits of all should leave us, having lost her hard-fought battle after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor nearly two years earlier. (Please learn more about Michelle and her Fighter Foundation by going to onmarch14.com. I sincerely encourage you to do so.)

 

MichelleD2Today a celebration of her life is being held. While I would like to be there in person, I must celebrate her here and all that she did to inspire and empower others to do what they can to make a difference in others’ lives. Late last year, some losses hit our household pretty hard, and honestly, I didn’t feel I was emotionally ready to attend another memorial again so soon. This, I felt, was the best way I could pay tribute to her, here on my blog — introducing her to those who didn’t know her so that they could learn more about her and her organization and mission that continue with the support and dedication of her family and friends. I could pay her the highest compliment by honoring her example and being honest and speaking up on my blog. You see, that was the one thing about Michelle that always impressed the hell out of me — her candor.  That coupled with her sense of humor led to many moments of sheer joy and conversations that left many around her holding their sides in pain from laughing so hard. She even had a knack for creating new words, and all of you know how much I value creativity. (I remember one such evening when the word “chucklefuck” became a unique “Marco—Polo!” call-out in a pool of giggling and slightly inebriated friends enjoying some much-needed downtime and each other’s company with this newly created albeit BLUE term of endearment. I still smile about that one.)

 

But Michelle’s most recent addition to the vernacular was much more powerful and meaningful — Be the Good.  The phrase had appeared in one of her first blog entries as she shared her story about the diagnosis and it transformed into a call to action to every one of us, whatever our circumstances, to make a conscious decision every day to take action and employ a positive attitude focused on changing lives and doing good in the world.

 

I’ve always believed one of the best ways you can do that is by educating others through your own stories and struggles, sharing personal life lessons and letting others in for a peek into your heart and mind, for it is only then that we realize we are not alone in our fears, anxieties, hesitation or confusion. By simply allowing others to step into our world and feel our pains and joy, and share in our victories and losses, we can encourage others to head out into the world with a little more confidence and far less trepidation as we all realize that we’re part of a whole, not just toodling alone out here in the galaxy but connected.

 

Why do I bring all of this up, and on today when a group of people celebrates this young woman who inspired many to Be the Good even in her brief trek of 29 years?  Because I’m realizing that sometimes our decisions to keep things to ourselves protect no one, and an opportunity to educate others can be so much more valuable. So the quiet and private me is taking a step outside of her comfort zone to be loud and public. This is my attempt to ‘be the good,’ Michelle. Putting it out there in the hopes that some of the things I’ve been learning in this new journey may help someone else. I may not be standing there today speaking before others to celebrate you, but I celebrate you here, my friend — your goodness, your openness and your commitment to help all of us be a little bit better. And that is the best way I know how to honor you.

 

My lessons are many already. Here is lesson #1 I’ve learned in the past 10 weeks… when your body speaks up and tells you something is wrong, be aggressive and insist on seeking answers. Ten weeks ago, I thought I had an upper respiratory infection and I was partly right. In fact, I’m still treating it now because it never really went away. But when I woke up one January day and found that I couldn’t breathe as well as I usually could, that when I’d walk across a room, I’d get short of breath immediately, I knew something else was going on. This wasn’t just my weight talking. And I will be the first to acknowledge, sure, I’m out of shape, but even I knew this was not normal for me. So began the next 7 weeks of testing, testing and more testing. Cardiac tests, x-rays, breathing studies, and every something-gram under the sun, including an outpatient cardiac procedure. All of them showed one thing — I had a healthy heart, despite my weight. But none of them showed the reasons for my breathing troubles.

 

There were times I had to search my own brain and memory for events over the past several months which might offer clues — and lo and behold, I found some that I would then offer to my team of specialists — and sometimes I felt listened to, and other times not so much. Here was big lesson #2 that immediately rose to greet me: assert yourself! There were times when I really felt like I had to help guide the ship because so many different players were involved and some occasions where I felt I wasn’t heard, so I did just that — spoke up! I strove to be as good a patient as I could and I expected the same of my care team. It’s one of the most important pieces of advice I would offer anyone looking for answers to medical question marks they are facing. You know yourself better than anybody so you must stay actively involved and aggressive at all times in finding the answers and contributing information to the experts equipped with the knowledge to help devise a plan.  I never realized how important that was until this experience and I feel like my own proactive role as a resource of information helped in leading to an answer. Eventually.

 

I never dreamed I would be so discouraged by negative test results though. I should be happy to find out I didn’t have particular deadly conditions, right? But the closure freak in me simply wanted answers and every day a new potential cause was ruled out, it felt like we got further and further away from a solution. Each day, I continued to find it harder and harder to breathe without experiencing discomfort and fatigue. It even affected my ability to talk, and anyone who has met me knows…I love to talk . How could someone so invested in words for a living struggle to string a few sentences without gasping?

 

I never realized just how much a single breath meant to me until I could no longer take one with ease.

 

And then finally, a little over 3 weeks ago, a test gave us some answers. A CT angiogram to be specific. Iodine is shot throughout the chest cavity to identify any areas of the lungs or heart where it appeared breathing might be compromised. And there it was. So began my education into the world of P.E.s.   No, not those horrendous days of bad track shorts and humiliating moments of awkwardness and clumsiness on the field or in the  school gymnasium.

 

Pulmonary Embolism. I had it. Actually, I had several. Emboli, that is. All located in my chest. Blood clots in the lungs is how most of us have heard it referenced. And the fun was just beginning, including big lesson #3 — don’t fight the unexpected. It’s going to arrive anyway. Best to welcome it with a smile and a smartass remark or two. It’ll be over so much faster.

 

More on my pulmonary adventures tomorrow…until then, take a few deep breaths and be kind to each other, folks. ~ Chris

CLICK HERE for Pulmonary Adventures and Why I Continue to Hate P.E., Part 2.

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