Thursday, 1 June 2017

It's What You Can Do, Not What You Can't

Do you ever collect things? I have a few things I like to collect and as you can see from the pictures of my fridge and freezer, fridge magnets are one of them. They have over the years become much more than a few tacky fridge magnets stuck on a fridge door though. 

A few of them are left over from when the girls were tiny and growing up - we would always have something stuck on the fridge during those times from drawings to ABCs to exam timetables and revision notes... The few remaining ones are always happy reminders of these times. A few years prior to my falling ill with Pulmonary Hypertension we began to travel more and more together as a family and I began to pick up fridge magnets wherever we went as little momentoes of our travels. Again the fridge magnets remain happy reminders of these lovely and precious times. 

Then out of the blue came the illness with a very poor prognosis and a long wait for a heart and double lung transplant. Life changed dramatically. It became a fight to survive and a fight to enjoy and make the most of out every moment. During this time, as a family we tried hard to go out and about as much as we could - afternoons out, days out, holidays in the UK - whatever we could manage with my ever changing needs and hospital visits. Everything we managed felt like a big achievement and I avidly began collecting more and more fridge magnets as momemtoes that I was able to still go out and do things in these difficult circumstances. We endeavered to live life to its fullest while I could and the fridge magnets became a reminder of this, especially on down days when I was too poorly to go out.

A glimpse of the colourful fridge and all the magnets that represented so many wonderful memories we'd made together would inspire me on to keep wanting more of life, and to keep on making more precious memories. The fronts of the fridge and freezer filled up with more and more magnets, more happy memories of precious times together when time was running out. Focusing on all those things I could do, rather than all those things that I couldn't became a real priority. So much had been so cruelly taken away, but the ever growing magnets on the fridge always showed how much I could still do and how much there must still be out there to enjoy. 

Life changed again with my heart and double lung transplant and the generosity of my donor and their family. I was given my second chance and suddenly free to travel the world again. We carried on making the most of those precious moments and making the most of my better health. We were constantly physically pinching ourselves every time we visited somewhere new and I didn't have to struggle any more. There were more fridge magnets added to the big collection; more memories; more reminders of how special life is. 

Now I've hit problems with my transplanted lungs, as they've been hit with one thing after another recently, which has significantly reduced how they can function. They've been hit with recurrent CMV infection, acute rejection episodes, pseudomonas infections, double pneumonia, parainfluenza and silent damage by stomach acid. Their deterioration means I'm very breathless and feel weak when I try and move and walk.

I've just been back to clinic and the positive news is they have remained stable over the last four weeks since I was last checked so that is good news for now at least. I'm in the middle of more tests and trying new medications to help keep things in balance and under control. It's also highly likely I will be having some stomach surgery soon after I have met with the gastro surgeon in early July. There are a few mountains to climb yet, but it's all in the aim of keeping me stable and preventing more damage to my lungs and even giving the opportunity for things to improve if I'm really lucky. 

With all this happening at the moment, we recently had to cancel a holiday we'd planned. We were supposed to be going on a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords visiting many new places and yes probably collecting more than a few more fridge magnets too. At the time of cancelling it, I was practically bedridden and so poorly that it really didn't matter and I didn't really care. I recall thinking I would be so grateful if I could just walk down the garden again. I'm managing that now and I'm so pleased and relieved I can do that and even get out and about now with help. There are times when it's not all about doing 'big' things and it's brought home to you starkly yet again, that the simplest of pleasures are the most important ones. 

The fridge magnets are always a bright and optimistic reminder each day that life can still be lived to the full, whatever the circumstances - even in those of feeling unwell and with limited mobility. I just need to adapt again like I've done before. As I glimpse them each day they shout out, 'You can still go out and do things, discover new places and enjoy yourselves.' We have to do it differently though and consider what is manageable such as whether a place is wheelchair friendly and asccessible; whether it is flat to manage a short walk or has benches or seating to sit and rest on; whether there's refreshments and loos or not, whether there's higher infection risks. We have to think of timings so I can enjoy outings when I feel my best during the day, allow for tiredness and rest periods and be ready to change plans and ideas at the last minute if my health so dictates. 

Under our own steam and pace I know we can still do so much and enjoy life. Since I've been well enough to go out and about again, that's what we've been trying hard to keep on doing. It is about focusing on what I can still do and not fretting and dwelling on what I can't. There's not much point on wasting any time and energy dwelling on the 'can't dos' - there really isn't time or energy for it anymore. I've already drawn up a list of places I want to visit locally, we've already enjoyed a quiet and relaxed break in the Lake District and proved to ourselves that we can get out and about now and we're making more plans to escape somewhere nice soon in between all the next round of tests and clinic visits.

I expect our fridge magnet collection to continue to grow and grow this summer. Hopefully we won't run out of space, but if we do that will be a good thing.

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