What would you do if you believed you had less than five years to live? I now have a realistic answer to this question.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m lousy at the yoga pose, Downward Facing Dog. I mean REALLY LOUSY! My shoulders and upper body give out quickly. I lose my breath and my heart races. I happened to mention the ‘breathlessness’ part to my doctor. I had visited her to discuss some inexplicable random pains in my upper arms. “Hmmm,” she said. “Let’s order a chest x-ray just to be safe.” That was May 3. On May 10, my doctor called me back in and asked my husband to join us. That did not appear to be a good sign. The words “loss of mass in your upper lungs, thickening of your lung walls and a three-centimeter shadow at your lung center” stung in my brain. “Suspected Pulmonary Fibrosis” was written on the x-ray report. That definitely was not good news.
A CAT Scan was ordered as the next step. In British Columbia, it’s currently a minimum two-month wait for that type of exam. I was given an appointment date of July 6. In the meantime, my husband and I prayed and read. What we read was not encouraging. It was the opposite of encouraging.
Pulmonary fibrosis is the scarring of the lungs. It is a progressive disease which makes breathing difficult. Treatment options are limited as this disease currently cannot be reversed. The survival rate for most patients is less than five years. Source.
My husband and I met with our doctor again. She was kind and sympathetic but did not try to placate us about the potential road ahead.
Instantly and simultaneously, my husband and I knew how we wanted to live the rest of our lives, regardless of how much time either of us had. I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms (unless you include breathlessness from my least favorite yoga pose)! Richard and I wanted to get out there. We wanted to live our lives as fully as possible. We wanted to remain active and adventurous for as long as we could. Truthfully, we wanted to be even more adventurous! We wanted to relish in our family and friends and be there for them, without burdening anyone. We wanted to remain grateful for every single day that we had. And, we wanted to be in it together.
We decided not to share this information with anyone until we knew more. After we received the scan results, we would decide how to proceed from there.
With incredible good fortune (and a bit of cash), we were able to get a private scan done in Vancouver. Remarkably, we were able to do this in May instead of July. There were exactly two weeks between receiving the original x-ray report and my CAT Scan in Vancouver. There were then two more days before we could find out the scan results. (Total time span: May 3 – May 25).
So what did we do during that time? Mostly, we did what we usually do. We walked dogs for the SPCA, went to the gym, spoke with our sons and my niece on the phone/Skype, hung out with friends and attended local events. We continued our planning for our Camino Trail hike this coming summer. I went to book club and yoga (and yes, I kept up with my attempts at the dreaded Downward Facing Dog). I was also extremely fortunate to be able to spend the week of Mother’s Day with my parents (which was amazing). Oh, and I also wrote a guest post on ‘Happiness’ for a blogging friend of mine. Lying underneath all this was a heightened appreciation for all that Richard and I have, and for all those whom we’ve been blessed to hold so dearly in our lives.
And, I have never felt so loved. Richard was amazing. How could I selfishly want more?
I quit reading about the disease. I would make a plan with my doctor once we had conclusive information. I continued praying. In prayer, I fully believed that everything was okay, even though my recent chest x-ray suggested differently.
“I believe in miracles,” I told Richard. “A single lab report is not going to get me down. It does not have my consent!”
Then, late last evening when I was leaving a Newcomers’ meeting, my doctor called. The CAT Scan of my heart and lungs was ‘completely normal’ for my age, height, and weight. The three-centimeter shadow was a benign air-cyst that posed no danger. The loss of volume frequently happens with age. I was given a clean bill of health!
I hung up the phone and relayed my doctor’s message to Richard. We were filled with intense love, gratitude and the unwavering knowledge that miracles, both big and small, happen every single day. It is this knowledge and emotion that I wish to keep at the center of my life for however long my life may be.
Feature Image: Canva.com