Last Sunday was the one-year anniversary of the spontaneous pneumothorax I suffered in my right lung. In the lead-up to that day, I had been experiencing more anxiety than usual. At times, I grew deeply afraid and didn’t understand why I was feeling this way. But I kept repeating in my mind: “I made it!”
The previous Thursday, I had an appointment with my pulmonologist. Before seeing him, I had X-rays taken, and I did a six-minute walk test in the pulmonary function lab. By my account, the walk test went pretty well. I still needed oxygen for longer distances, but I wasn’t at the flow rate I was at nine months ago. To me, that’s an improvement. I guess my regular gym visits have paid off. Rehabilitation takes time.
Once I finished in the pulmonary function lab, I moved to the waiting area to see the doctor. For whatever reason, on this day, the waiting area was jammed with patients; it was standing room only. I stood for a moment, and then a chair became available, so I sat. While waiting, I looked around at all the people who had some sort of lung or respiratory issue.
Time to reflect
Many of the patients in the waiting room had to wear oxygen, and quite a few were in wheelchairs, attached to oxygen. I couldn’t help but think about my past visits here over the last nine months. In the past year, I’ve lived with a heightened level of fear and anxiety. With each new doctor’s appointment, I became more fearful because I didn’t know what to expect, especially since I must be X-rayed before each office visit.
I looked around the room at all of the patients. For the first time in a few visits, I didn’t hook myself up to one of the oxygen ports on the wall. I started thinking about the importance of that coming Sunday, and that I was approaching a year since I was admitted to the hospital for spontaneous pneumothorax. I vividly remember that warm Saturday afternoon and the coughing spell that overcame me. I tried not to connect the warm, beautiful weather we’re now beginning to have to the same time last year. That’s what caused the anxiety, and that in itself was hard. I guess I now understand the old saying, “An idle mind …”
Progress takes time
I finally heard my name called, and off to the examination room I went. I first met with the nurse practitioner. We exchanged pleasantries, and she began her assessment of my tests and overall condition. She reviewed my walk tests and determined that although they were somewhat improved, I still required oxygen during lengthy walks. She reviewed my X-rays and said there was no significant change. The good news about that was no new pneumothorax. What a relief.
Before she left, we had a brief conversation about lung transplant. I told her that I was still interested, but I was afraid after being hospitalized for the past two summers. She understood and mentioned that if I change my mind, the option is always on the table. I told her that I would like to talk to someone who’s been through the procedure for some “real” information.
And in walked the doctor! The nurse practitioner filled the doctor in about what we’d been discussing. I added a few things, and he began reviewing my tests. He told me the X-rays looked the same as they did six weeks ago, which is good by all accounts. Knowing that my lungs are not in the best shape, there’s been no change, which is good. We talked about the walk test and about things I wanted to try to improve my condition.
We talked about lung transplant, and my question was: “Is there a chance that the sarcoidosis can affect the new lungs?” The doctor told me it wouldn’t. This doctor is the type of person who listens and understands that with this condition, I prefer to consider homeopathic or alternative therapies to see if they might help. He definitely is an advocate I can count on regarding my health.
We finished our visit, and he told me I was doing well, considering everything I’d been through. I took his words as a vote of confidence that I shouldn’t keep worrying about things that I can’t control. I should focus on things that continue to help my progress. So, when May 19 arrived, I sat in my yard with a smoking barbecue grill and gave thanks for being able to enjoy this new year.
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