Last week my husband and I celebrated our 40th anniversary! I am so grateful to celebrate this amazing day with this wonderful man! Four years ago, I was told I had a few months to a year to live and was offered no treatment options.
Being given such a horrible time frame to live was devastating. I really didn’t think I’d make it to this momentous anniversary. Praise God I’m still here and kicking! I’ve learned several things from this experience. I know you may not be facing a terminal illness, but I think the things I learned may be of help to celebrate and enjoy the good things life has to offer, even when going through hardships!
Gratitude for every breathe and moment
It’s so normal when going through hardships to get lost in them. Sometimes they are all we can think about. This is part of the healing process. It’s also helpful to pause and be grateful for all the good that is still around for us to enjoy. I wake up every morning and thank God for each breath and another day. I try to notice and be grateful for the many positives in my life. These small moments of gratitude give me a more balanced perspective of what I’m going through. I often tell myself, “Yes this is really hard and scary, AND there is so much to enjoy too.”
Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best
Hearing such a short time frame to live caused me to take steps to take care of a lot of business and end of life decisions so as not to leave a mess when I passed. I’m so glad I took care of these important decisions. I’m doing all I can to be as healthy as possible, and placing my hope in God.
If you don’t like your doctor get a new one
I was devastated by what my doctor told me. Upon the advice of a friend I paid for a second opinion outside of my insurance company. She told me about a doctor who had done wonders for a friend of hers with a different lung disease. What did I have to lose?
My new pulmonologist agreed that I had a terminal illness but said the reason I was declining so rapidly was that I was on the wrong medication. He had me switch to a new medication that kept me stable for 12 months. My first doctor tried to see if my current insurance company would pay for an outside specialist, but they wouldn’t approve it. The first doctors were just waiting for me to die. Needless to say, I dropped them a few months later and now have a different insurance company and different doctors.
Do all you can to enjoy your life NOW
It is normal to be besieged by grief, confusion and painful emotions when going through hardships. I feel these emotions off and on now, but they were especially strong the first year. As they lessen and I accept and deal with reality, I focus on enjoying the good things life has for me. Soaking in good things replenishes us, and helps us be resilient for the road ahead. In a recent column I wrote for Pulmonary Fibrosis News I wrote about the things I’m being intentional about enjoying this summer.
I like to celebrate lots of things. Reaching the next birthday, anniversary, holiday and family event is worth celebrating. Each one is a gift to be relished and enjoyed. If I didn’t have pulmonary fibrosis and have such a hard time traveling and getting around we would have had a big party to celebrate our anniversary.
Instead, we planned several small things over a week to celebrate this milestone. We went out to lunch twice at favorite spots, went to a movie, had a nice dinner and took a nice drive and got boysenberry pie! It felt good to still celebrate, although in different ways than I would have before getting this disease.
I’d love to hear from you!
How are you being intentional about enjoying the good things life has to offer? What milestones have you been able to celebrate, and how? Which ones are you looking forward to?
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