Wow, 2010 has been quite a year. I've been reflecting a lot the past few days, as this year comes to a close. This was a year full of learning new things for me...new things about my body, new things about my disease, new things about the meaning of friendship, new things about faith and new things about love.
I have learned what my body needs to thrive. At the beginning of the year I was working out 5-7 times a week without fail. I pushed myself to the limit. I worked out when I was tired and sore. I worked out when I was sick. This was great for my muscles, but wreaked havoc on my lungs. My PFT's were the lowest they have been in my life when I was working out the most. When I started my latest treatment protocol in September I made a deal with myself. I needed to cut myself some slack. I needed to not push myself harder than my body was telling me it could handle. Sometimes, I just needed to rest and heal. Throughout my treatments there were 2 weeks that I never got to my workout class. There were several weeks that I only went once. I never pushed it and if I was tired I quickly made the decision to skip. I think I made the right choice for my body. My PFT's increased by 11% over the past 4 months, to a number I haven't seen in more than 5 years! I am back to trying to work out 4-5 times a week, all while making sure to listen to my body first and foremost. I think my body and I are starting to speak the same language. I will no longer push my lungs to the point of exhaustion.
This may be good or it may be bad, but I have learned a tremendous amount about Cystic Fibrosis this year. I learned tons about mycobacterium of all sorts from discussions with my health care team, talking with others who have it and doing my own research. So much so that I have burned myself out. When I cultured H flu in November I read a couple paragraphs about it and left it alone. After my appointment a couple weeks ago I found out that I cultured MAC, a new yeast and another bacteria that I never even got the name of. I was told not to worry about any of these latest bugs. It's not really my nature not to worry, but I am happily taking that route this time. I have reached information overload. I am feeling very well, my PFT's are up and I am in the maintenance phase of my treatment for the next 9 months. I have made a conscious effort to live more and worry less about what is growing in my lungs. Maybe that will be my New Year's resolution. "Live more...worry less"! Not an easy task for a neurotic like me. However, as long as I'm being closely monitored and I trust my health care team, I don't see why I have to focus so much on some stupid little bacteria. I'll let you know how that goes!
I learned so, so much about friendship this year. I received an amazing amount of support from many friends that I have never met...those who have walked this path before me. People who knew what it was like to live in this skin. I'm not certain what I would have done without the support and love of these kindred spirits...you all know who you are!
I think the biggest lessons learned came from my real life relationships. I feel like I became intimate very quickly with the idea that difficult times allow you to learn who your real friends are. I can freely admit now that I needed help. I was really, really hurting, overwhelmed and scared. I went from being someone thriving with CF, to someone des perately trying to understand where it all went wrong. I tried to put on a happy face, for everyone else's sake...mostly for my kids sake. I had a few very dear friends who saw through this facade and rescued my spirit...whether with soup (Cathy), weekly cards/gifts/phone calls (Lynn), with opportunities to vent and a HUGE hug at just the right time (Elizabeth) or with frequent emails from a neighbor asking what I needed (Alan)...among other beautiful friends... I will never, ever forget their kindness. I have learned that sometimes a small gesture when someone is hurting goes a very long way. I am going to work really hard to try to model myself after these truly remarkable women (and one guy) who made my world a little less scary.
Unfortunately, I also learned that when you are really sick several people that you think would be able or willing to lend a helping hand completely disappear. People I would have considered friends for several years pretend they have no idea what's been going on with my health. I know, I know...people have busy lives. Yet, sitting on this side of the fence I can assure you that the absence of a phone call, email or note felt like a slap in the face. At the same time, although hurtful, I am glad that I had these experiences. I would much rather surround myself with genuine people who can see beyond themselves. Especially, since I am trying hard to practice this myself. It turned out that this year was a great exercise in plucking out the true friends from the bunch.
I am a firm believer in "to each his/her own" when it comes to religion, faith, spirituality. You can believe, not believe or believe in a Higher Power that is different than my God...I'll still like you :-) I don't think everyone has to believe what I believe. I was raised strictly Lutheran and was sent to small Lutheran schools up until college. I believed, I'm just not sure in what... This year I found my church home. I found a soft place to land. I am learning a lot about faith and community by being a part of Heartland. For this I am thankful!
Love. That is how I would describe this holiday season. I felt it more deeply this year than any other. Love for my children, my husband, my family, my dear friends... I found myself so overwhelmed with peaceful and loving feelings over the holidays that I just wanted to freeze time. My friend Jenny was in the hospital just before Christmas and she wrote of
her gratitude for life and love in her beautiful post... I Came Here to Live . She hit the nail on the head with this one. Yes, this is how I feel! It's a must read!
My family went on our yearly trip to our cabin in Hocking Hills just before Christmas. With 3 kids, sometimes too much togetherness can be overwhelming. This year it was just right.
Everything about the holidays seemed just right for us this year. I have never felt more love and I have never felt more loved.
Here's hoping I don't need to learn nearly as much in 2011!!! Have a safe, healthy and happy New Year!