Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Choices We Make

When I made the decision to come to the hospital, it was not an easy one. The way I was feeling, my energy level, my increased cough, my increased mucus production, my lung pain and my lung function test results all pointed to an easy decision, but it was certainly not so.

Mandi and I had been planning on a trip to South Carolina with my father-in-law and mother-in-law and family friends for months. The tickets had been purchased the schedules rearranged and we were ready to go. That "we" is now just Mandi and Mckenna. They left on a plane for South Carolina this morning.

It's funny as it seems every time there is a decision whether or not to come into the hospital, there is always a balancing act. I have to decide how to weigh the perceived sacrifices with the hopeful
outcomes. And really, the hopeful outcome is the only reason I come into the hospital. If I didn't have that hope that I could and would get better there be no reason for me to be in here. Thankfully I still have that hope, and have never lost it. When I come in for a tune-up, I do get better. I do become the best version of myself. It make take 2 weeks, 3 weeks or more, but it does happen.

So what led to this decision? The easy answer is that my lungs felt beat up. I was unable to exercise like I'm used to. I found myself getting winded after a flight of stairs. It was hard to take a deep breath because of the pain that I experienced each time. With me, it becomes a vicious cycle. Less than effective workouts contribute to more mucus buildup which contributes to more inflammation which contributes to a harder time breathing. It's up to me to break that cycle. Sometimes I can do it through increased treatments or increased exercise, but other times it takes the decision to come in for a tuneup.

When I went to clinic and talked it over with the team they thought it was a pretty good idea that I come in. They knew about my looming trip to South Carolina and told me that I would have their full support if I decided to try to hang on and make the trip. We all knew that the decision to come into the hospital would mean that I was choosing not to go to South Carolina but to go into the Hole. It was not an easy decision, but there is no doubt that there was a right one. I had to put my health first.

I don't have many regrets in life, but as it relates to CF, I have one big one. There was a time in my life when health certainly did not come first. My social life came first. My work came first. My girlfriend was my priority. My friends won out over my treatments. Delaying hospital stays to go on vacation was the norm.

And after years and years of making those decisions and putting everything else in front of my health, I am now paying for it.

I have to work so hard now to stay healthy. I have to put in so much time each day to keep my energy at a level that my wife my daughter deserve. So much time is spent doing my treatments or at the gym that I wish it could be spent at the park with my daughter. I now have to miss family vacations to come into the hospital.

If I would've kept my health first, as the first priority in my life, would I have to make the sacrifices now? Of course I do not know the answer for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that I wouldn't have to work so hard now. I wouldn't have to take so much time away from my family when life is really important. I probably wouldn't be missing this trip to South Carolina.

That's the bed I made and now I lay down in it.

So what's the point? If you're reading this and you're struggling with putting your health first, I beg of you, don't make the same mistakes that I did. There will come a time in your life that you will wish you didn't have to work so hard because of choices in the past. When we were younger many of us thought that we were just “living life”. Let me tell you as a man with a wife and a daughter - This is life. I'm now in a life that matters. I have two beautiful girls who count on me to be at my best. That doesn't mean that if you don't have a family in the future you won't be living “the life”. But I promise you that there is something down the road worth sacrificing for. The truth of the matter is you're going to have to work hard now or work hard later, but hard work and sacrifice will happen.

I encourage you to make that sacrifice now, and to work hard now, at the chance that you won't have to work so hard later.