I saw the doctor last Monday because I am trying to be proactive in learning how to live with my newly-diagnosed disease of Pulmonary Fibrosis. My appointment to find out what the blood tests showed about the presence of PF producing autoimmune diseases had been set for December 21st. But it may as well have been July 21st.
Waiting for the results was a “turning, turning slowly in the wind” torture because if I didn’t have any of the seven diseases that I was being tested for, then the next step is a seriously serious in-hospital surgery to take two slices of my lungs. The specimens can show if my PF is environmentally caused (and therefore, not apt to progress), or if it is actively inflamed, which means it’s going to take me to the end of my earthly pilgrimage. It would then be labeled as IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis), meaning “they don’t have a clue why I have it and there’s nothing they can do about it.”
My daughter Elena has become a warrior woman of pro-activity due to her own struggles with an autoimmune disease and myriad ramifications and the multi-surgeries it has brought with it. She suggested that since I might have to have the surgery, I could ask my pulmonologist if he were willing to tentatively schedule a date with the surgeon and hospital so I could have it before the end of the year. That way, since I have already met my insurance deductible for this year, I could save myself several thousand dollars of expense at the beginning of the year. That suggestion prompted a volley of calls with the doctor’s office manager that eventually led to the earlier-than-expected appointment this past Monday.
I’m sure the doctor understood the unspoken sense of urgency that was behind my wanting to get the surgery over with, if in fact, I was going to need it. And since the results came back negative on the 7 autoimmune diseases he tested me for, it’s more probable now that I will need it as the final indicator of what kind of PF I have. He’s a young doctor (early 40’s maybe?) but I believe he is both cautious and wise (a really good combination for anybody in whose care you place yourself).
He told me that there was one slot open with the surgeon before Christmas, but he advised me to wait. He wants me to get another set of CT scans and breathing tests in February, so he can monitor if the scarring in my lungs is progressing (signs of inflammation) and if so, be able to assess how quickly. This plan of monitoring sounded like good advice to me (and to Cari who is walking this journey with her mama). So we set an appointment for February 10 to see him again. In the meantime, I will have an echocardiogram, the CT’s, and the huff and puff tests again.
After my visit with him, I realized that I’m still going to be “turning, turning” but somehow it’s okay now. I once again remember that we’re all “turning, turning” from the moment of our birth. Not to put too fine a point on it, life is a journey of heading into death. We are vulnerable to myriad vagaries and vicissitudes for which we cannot prepare. As we are jerked here or slammed there by one thing and then the next, we know that any one of them may be our last earthly experience.
Certainly, it’s this understanding of our fragility and limited abilities as earthbound creatures who will all eventually return to the dust from whence we came that makes the gift of life we have so incredibly, awesomely precious. It means we have the possibility of being grateful to God for all things that come our way so that I can say "PF I love you" because you are an agent of transformation for me. And it makes each day the only day we have--the wrapping of the life-gift that is ours to stare at in numb-terror or to unwrap with contagious jubilation. Today, I choose jubilation. I plan to monitor myself and see how I am doing.
Will you pray with me?
Giver of Life,
I thank you for the gift of today and ask that you will help me become so finely tuned to the great blessings that abound within it, I will jubilate my way into tomorrow, whenever tomorrow comes. Hallelujah! Amen.