As I enter September, I feel as though a series of enormous weights has finally been lifted from my back; I hope that I’ve come to the end of my annus horribilus.
My sorry tale began in late January of this year when I developed my customary winter cough. I say customary, since, being asthmatic, I seem to contract a bone shaking cough almost every winter. Past experience had taught me that my doctor would, at best, give me an antibiotic, and, in truth, the cough would just run its course. Well, the cough kept worsening until I was literally shaking the house with the volume of my middle of the night coughs. I resisted seeking treatment, but when my head began feeling stuffed, I finally submitted to my wife’s advice (she’d been on me for a month to take action) and went to my doctor’s office on March 4. One chest x-ray later, and the verdict was in — I had a very serious pneumonia.
Bear in mind that pneumonia didn’t scare me at all. I’d had pneumonia a number of times in the past. Given the very compromised state of my lungs, I always felt that pneumonia during the winter was something I’d have to deal with. I started a course of antibiotics and, within a couple of weeks, things started to improve. That is, until Easter Sunday. Sitting at the family dinner table, I felt enormously weak, excused myself, and went upstairs to bed. I went back to the doctor the next day, only to discover that I now had pleurisy as well! My doctor sent me to a pulmonologist whom I’d used before. This doctor, Dr. Ence, changed the antibiotic and explained that, if all else fails, the fluid in my pleura might have to be removed with a syringe. Two weeks later, the syringe removed only 100 ccs of an opaque liquid. That meant that the pleural fluid had begun to gel. I could see the handwriting on the wall, but Dr. Ence agreed to take one last stab at antibiotics.
I went to his office on May 13, and we agreed that all measures had failed. The thorectomy was performed on my the afternoon of May 14. The surgeon was unable to pump out the junk, so he had to open me up, go in, and remove the infected material manually. I woke up in recovery, Foley catheter in place and a drainage tube coming out my side. I was able to go home four days later.
My recovery was attenuated. My wife had to administer painkillers and set up my nebulizer treatments. I was too weak to do much of anything. Things didn’t change much for two or three weeks, but then the improvements started to kick in. By mid-June, I was able to drive short distances, given the minimal stamina that I had. All in all, I didn’t feel really healthy until mid-July, although some symptoms are continuing.
But, as I said, this has truly been an annus horribilus. Just as I became able to function somewhat normally, my Mom (84 years old) had to be hospitalized and, as a side-effect, temporarily lost her short term memory. Naturally, I stepped in and began supervising her life. She already resided in an assisted living home, but I needed to take over her financial affairs, explain the simplest things to her repeatedly, and exhibit more patience than I knew I had. Thankfully, by late August she had pretty much recovered her faculties.
Now, during this time, I’d neglected many things that would normally have been routine. First on the list was an eye examination. Last year, I was told I had cataracts and to expect surgery within 5-8 years. On this visit, I learned that my cataracts had ripened, so I scheduled two surgeries on consecutive Mondays, August 9 and 16. The doctor also made my day when he told me that because of my especially poor vision (about 20/1275) and astigmatism, I was an especially high risk case.
As an aside, nothing anyone could say or do would have had much effect on me by then.
The surgeries went smoothly and, at the end of the day, I’m driving without glasses for the first time in my life, with one eye at 20/15 and the other at 20/30! At that point, I began thinking that my “lucky streak” might be at an end.
There are several lessons I learned from this experience.
First, always be grateful for what you have and, no matter how difficult things seem, reflect on the fact that others have it far worse. For me, I think Darfur. Gratitude has long been a cornerstone of my philosophy, but this year, when put to the test, it really came through for me.
Second, instead of asking “why me,” ask “why not?” Life is a series of random events that happen for no particular reason. So rather than feel sorry for myself, I just figure that this is just another obstacle in my path and I treat it accordingly.
Third, I really realized how much I miss working. My last mediation before getting sick was on January 21, 2010. I tried to juggle things for a while, but when I realized how dire my condition was, I canceled all upcoming jobs. All except one, that is. Although I repeatedly suggested that they find someone else, one set of adversaries insisted that I conduct a second session and were willing to wait until August for me to do it! Incredibly, given the layoff, I really hadn’t missed a beat. The case settled and all concerned were very grateful for my assistance.
In reflection, it seems that I used a lot of the same advice that I provide while mediating. And not surprisingly, it worked well.
So now I’m up to the last piece — blogging. I’m not sure exactly what mediation related article I want to write, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something. Stay tuned