Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas season is upon us. I was lucky enough not have to been at one of those gatherings where we have to go around the table and say all the things we've been thankful for in the past year. Trust me, I would have been Debbie Downer in that crowd. Since I don't yet have my own reality show I'll have to fill you in. I had a really epic July 4th where my lovely friend Matt McCabe and I made what was raved as "the best guacamole ever", my equally lovely friend Omar and I came up with a deadly strawberry margarita recipe which later led to him having a Harry Potter-esque scar on his forehead. And of course, someone stood atop a patio table at Cain and Abels and sang Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" for all to hear. A truly great celebration of America but before sunset, I was calling it a night and gave my friend Jen a hug goodbye as we parted ways on 22 1/2 St. to retire. Sadly, July 5th is not a holiday and I had a test the next day.
To my surprise, that walk to class the next morning was not as it had been every other summer morning prior to that. And I'm proud to say I made it to class every day (except one. This is an honest space.) . I noticed feeling just slightly winded on my walk. I try not to be hypersensitive so I went on with my day, but did mention it to my mommy in one of our semi-daily phone conversations. It wasn't even a week later that my breathing was substantially worse and I found myself concerned enough that I felt I needed to be seen by my doctors back home immediately. Unfortunately, I had a final on Saturday morning. So I packed my car, got my whole self ready, and took my Weather and Climate final in record time simply to get out of Austin and get some answers. All these months later, I'm still not sure we have any more than I did that day.
Transplanted lungs can go through a process called rejection. But it's a process that usually comes over months, or even years. There's a significant drop in oxygen saturation. There's usually fever associated. I had none of these things. The decision was made to be proactive though and start treatments for lung rejection which sounded simple enough. Taking my usual 5mg of the steroid prednisone and increasing it to 40mg, slowly dropping it down week by week. And a 3 day IV infusion of an even stronger steroid called solu-medrol. Not my favorite thing to do, but let's fix this. I have a life to get back to. Class in the morning, gym in the afternoon, law library sessions during the week, downtown adventures on the weekend. My senior year had a great flow to it so far. So while slightly irritated by this brief medical bump in the road, I was in no way discouraged. It wasn't until coming home from a day at the hospital that I my life really felt like it was changing.
If you are a real dog person, you know your dogs' routines. For our Furby and Clairebelle, they always are waiting to greet us at the back door when we come home, anxiously jumping to get inside and sprawl out on the cool tile floor. On August 4th however, there were no dogs at the back porch. Instead I looked through the clear glass door and saw a turned over water bowl, marks all over the glass, and feces. Something was not right. As I ran outside I saw my little Clairebelle laying lifeless in the yard and simply collapsed in grief, screaming to my mom, "something really bad happened to our dogs". It was quickly obvious there was nothing we could do for Claire, but our Furby was still alive, though terribly wounded. We wrapped her up in a towel and got in the car to get her to the nearest vet clinic. Less than 10 minutes into the drive, she passed away in my arms. Despite all the things I've been through in the past 22 years, this day stands as the worst day in my life. Our neighbors had purchased two large muscular hunting type dogs; the type that belong on a farm to run and roam free. I can honestly say I never saw the dogs myself as they were kept solely in their backyard which is about 90% swimming pool and if it wasn't for their incessant barking, I would not have known they existed. It was a constant project for my dad to repair our fence where the dogs had eaten holes. But the negligence of our neighbors ended up costing us two family members in the end. They ate through a part of the fence that was covered by a bush on our side and mercilessly mauled two aging little lap dogs. It was a mix of sadness and anger that I had never experienced. And though I hate to sound childish, I wish I could have carried out some type of revenge, or at least been the one to put bullets through the eyes of those mongrel dogs. I constantly prayed for my anger to subside. I don't know if it ever completely will, but some form of peace came about a month later.
The "rejection" was not getting any better at this point and my fall schedule was looking questionable. However, I was still set to move into a beautiful one bedroom apartment and hopeful that I would be able to keep up and that over time, I would be back into my college girl routine. There was still a hole in my heart though from losing my little dogs. I began to plead with my parents that for another one. Of course, I could never replace my first two, with such distinctive personalities. But maybe I could find something to love and give a good home to. Over weeks over wearing my parents down, we began to look at puppies. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. The first few visits were somewhat discouraging. My first two dogs had set the bar pretty high. Then one morning, as we all sat at breakfast, I showed them a picture of a puppy located in Camp Wood, TX which is some 2 1/2 hours from San Antonio. We debated back and forth about the drive and if it was worth it. But something in us decided to go check out these dogs. Before us was a little white female and a blonde colored male. The second I saw him, I knew he was mine. We took him home and the spoiling began. Though I have to say, as much as we do for little Abel, he has done so much more to heal our broken hearts.
As the months have gone by, my lungs have only continued to decline. I've had bronchitis, CMV, pneumonia, and pulmonary emboli. Going up stairs is something I have to mentally prepare for. Simply walking around too much on a flat surface can leave me winded. I've begun to suffer with anxiety, depression, and insomnia. My body aches all over from all the medications. I'm pale and bruised from needle sticks. I feel about 80 years old most of the time. It's been a sad, slow decline that not even I can believe. Literally everything feels like a challenge. Some days I sink into nothingness, feeling worthless and frustrated. Some days, I just break down and cry for hours. I think about being the Maid of Honor at my best girl friend's wedding and wonder if I'll be alive for it. I worry sometimes that I may fall asleep at night and just not wake up. But I believe that stress alone can cause serious damage to one's body. So, I take as deep a breath and realize that while my life may not be in my hands, my attitude is.
You can say it's purely coincidental, but I feel blessed that Christmas season is upon us. It has been a struggle to not feel totally self-centered the past few months. I feel nobody around me can understand my distress and no one else has it as bad off as I do. But this way of thinking only further isolates me. This is why I feel such joy when I think of embracing the spirit of giving and bringing what abilities I still have to others. I can't go on a run anymore, I can't have a dance party, but I can listen to my friends' problems, I can make a homemade gift, I can send a card. And when I do those things, my feelings of worthlessness begin to fade. It is beautifully ironic. I'm at rock bottom, sicker than I've ever been, on my knees and begging God, "please, no more!". I'm totally empty. But by pushing a little more, I find myself wanting to live my life and not just give up. By expending my (lack of) energy on something other than MYself and MY problems, I build myself up again. And if even for just a brief moment, I forget about my problems and that is my gift at the end of the day.
Brighter posts to come very soon! Love, Mary