Is your cup half empty or half full? Probably the reason why my nickname in my younger years was smiler was because I was always the optimist. Looking on the brighter side of life with a cup that was at all times half full. To some a demented loony at times. That optimism has carried me well through life to what is now my twilight years. But I still have a cup that is half full, never empty. Nor half empty.
Being at stage 4 of emphysema many have remarked on how I seem to carry on regardless. Always chirpy. Very rarely sad. How do I manage to pack so much into my life. Belong to so many organizations. Sit on many committees, and advise on many patient groups. Some have questioned if I am really as ill as I should be at my stage of emphysema. Sadly I am. But will not let my illness dictate my life.
A month ago the worse exacerbation I have had for at least four years knocked me for six. In a matter of hours I went from feeling fine to hardly able to breathe. Realizing I had probably contracted a pneumonia I quickly put myself onto my emergency medication. Then using my oximeter checked my blood oxygen levels which I found to be very low and put myself on 24/7 oxygen. If I had not have had oxygen I would have had no choice but go to hospital. I had everything that would be used in hospital and treated myself at home. The only proviso was if I was to find breathing even harder that I may then need to go to hospital. After three days I was able to cut oxygen intake as I recovered.
Just a few days from recovering I had a two-day appointment in London with an overnight stay, and, being one that I had to make if possible decided to still make the journey. This was not an easy task even though my planning was good. During the journey I at one time got very breathless and asked myself if I had pushed myself too far and questioned my madness. There were to be two more occasions of extreme breathlessness lasting a few minutes when I wondered if I had done the right thing by making the trip. The thought occurred to me during one period of breathlessness in the hotel lobby that today could easily by my last as I was with little doubt putting a strain on my body. Even so to me that was a better option than the alternative, to give in to my illness and sit in a chair. The worse part of my central London visit was the pollution. Raw and nasty. I could taste it and my lungs screamed. There was no doubt to me this was making me more breathless than usual.
On my return home as I left London my lungs seemed to breathe a huge sigh of relief as fresh air entered my train carriage. The fresher pollution free air seemed to encourage a renewed strength. The experience, the struggle, had seemed to make me stronger. My cup was not now only half full. It was filling up. I did though take a week of doing little to have a complete rest on my return to Wales to get back to full fitness. As far as we of course can be fit.
Many ask. Do I get depressed. The answer is not often but sometimes. Not as to ‘why me’. After all many carry a burden, an illness we have to overcome. For some it might be fibromyalgia, others a cancer, still others a crippling bone disease, or Parkinson. I even admit to wondering during the blackest moments ‘is it worth carrying on’. Then think of my family, The wonderful smiling faces of my grandchildren, my wife, and realize it is. Life is wonderful. Full of surprises. Whatever your struggles there is much to enjoy.
If you are unable to go outside your home much a computer is great to keep in touch with the world, and of course family. With today s technology it is quite easy to overcome problems. Not that long ago there was no portable oxygen. No mobility scooters. Or Internet. Mobile phones did not exist. It was mentioned to me by a guy I was talking to, on him noticing my cannula, that his grandfather died of emphysema. After he had been tied to his bed for 8 long years. Unable to even go out due to a large oxygen cylinder next to his bed. Think how much he missed out on not having portable oxygen. Now like me he would have been able to get out with portable oxygen and visit anywhere he chose. Think how it might have extended his life.
Like many of you I cannot go far in winter. Making the internet a wonderful tool. At one time the encyclopedia Britannica cost a king’s ransom to buy. Now for free we can find out anything we want within a minute using Google. Have you even watched a film and typed into Google the name of the film and asked where it was made – what the locations were? How wonderful is that. I like many have problems with mobility due to breathlessness. So I use a mobility scooter. With a hoist to get it in and out the car. Not that long ago it would have been Lynne pushing me in a hard to push wheelchair, or not going out at all. We can also use the internet to keep in touch with family. Or to use for hobbies. Mine I use for all my photography including developing my pictures. And like now, for my writing. Another advantage of today’s technology as mentioned is the mobile phone. I always make sure I carry mine with me. Then if I break down in my car or on my scooter can telephone for help in an instance. A lot different from when I was young and breaking down could and once did mean a long walk to a public telephone box to call for help.
We might be ill. But do have very much to be thankful. And grateful for. Today I am dedicating my ramble to ‘Gratitude’.
Till I write again. Remember a smile is worth a million words. To keep that cup half full. But most of all. Breathe Easy.