Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dying To Breathe

Dying To Breathe

Being a writer makes it hard sometimes to express in a flowing storyline what has only just been thoughts swimming in my head. I can easily think of experiences and look at it from every angle, understanding it in every way, but it is difficult to put these angles and understandings on paper. What makes it even harder can be not really wanting to talk of the subject at all. I just don't talk about "me".

Yet, writing of the experiences that follow seems to be what I'm lead to do in some way, so that others might find strength, hope, energy, possibility, and a better perception on things in their own lives that would aid in healing.

I will simply write like I'm talking to you directly, as if we were together as friends. Not every proper word or proper, grammatically-correct phrasing will appear. I'm not writing for the masses, or for notice, but simply to express experience and learning. If you find something useful in this, take it and make it your own lesson or medicine.

I will not recommend you follow my steps, or choose my decisions as right for you. I'm hardheaded and tend to learn in radical ways sometimes.

With that being said...

In the summer of about 2006, I died.

Since I was little, I have always been active. If there was a will, there was a way. If I didn't have a job or couldn't find one, I created one. If I wanted to be somewhere else, I went. I couldn’t be told I couldn't do something because I didn't have the money, the tools, the experience, or whatever else was required. I believed I could, so I did. I didn't believe in excuses or victim-hood, or feeling sorry for myself, though I'm sure I did on some level from time to time. The point is, I wasn't sitting still. I had things to do, dreams to pursue.

Then, out of the blue one day, I step outside onto my back patio and immediately collapsed. I could not move, but worse, I could not breathe. Air would not enter or leave my lungs. My mind began to set into overdrive, begging me to breathe, breathe!

My body began to heat up fast because the cooling that comes naturally from breathing wasn’t there. Add that this was a dry humid day with no breeze; stale; still. I remember thinking, ‘I hope no one finds me like this,because them being near would smother me from the extra heat. I didn’t even wish to call for help. I just knew that more people surrounding me would not be helpful and that them trying to give me air would be deadly, because my lungs were sealed shut. There was no way they could have given me air.

My brain, screaming with everything it had, begging, demanding; I, trying, trying with everything I was to just breathe, just live.

I finally had the thought that this must be how it is to go. As I looked up through the trees and noticed the sunlight filtering its way down, I seemed to be letting go, just letting go of it all. A mere thought I had was, ‘just one little, cool breeze’, just a little one.

And as the scene seemed to be growing brighter, and even more peaceful, somehow... out of nowhere, like a dove, a bird, something that was a small but pure dose of air entered me as if it was liquid water in the midst of a desert—it filled my lungs entirely.

Within a minute or two, I was on my feet, breathing, much the same as before. I had to sit down for a few minutes to replay it in my head.

I am a deep thinker, pondering things for hours, days, all the time. I had some thinking to do.

Thus began a journey of decreasing energy and some breathing issues over the course of some 7 or so years.

At first, I got one of those Primatene Mist inhalers just to have at the ready should more issues arise. It was lucky that I had made that choice, because I began to run into attacks of not being able to breathe, as I would get winded doing something else. This was of course unusual for me. The learning curve on getting control back as the issue got worse is beyond describing properly.

I would get winded and use the inhaler, but had to learn how to breathe all over again. When I would have an attack it was severe--I just couldn't get air into my lungs, which turned out to be from lots of mucus clogging the air sacs.

The Primatene would pump some epinephrine into my lungs and gang (do you mean gain??? Even then it doesn’t make much sense.) an opening, but it was still gaining control of my breathing that I had to work on over time. It turns out that you have to get the O2 and carbon mix balanced, which can only be done by nose breathing in a perfect rhythm. Mouth breathing will not work for this, and that's what your mind is begging, pleading and demanding you do, like a screaming little kid out of control that "wants it now".

I had studied meditation, breathing techniques, and profound focus, but it took me awhile to remember this and use it to my advantage. Pushing through with sheer determination and focus, I began to overcome the screaming mind and let consciousness take over. This was not any easy thing to go through, but I learned by doing; by having no choice but to do it, or else.

I had at one time got to the point I was going through about 1 inhaler every 10 days; not 30, not 90, not a few times a year, but 10 days. I was living on it, depending on it, while I still seemed to become weaker by the day as I lost weight and energy—I became the walking dead.

I didn't go to the hospital, choosing to push through each session that came upon me. My wife insisted she needed to call 911 more times than I can count; I wouldn't let her. I pushed through and made it out the other side, over and over, and over again. Whatever this was, I could find a way through… I've always found a way through.

By the fall of 2013 I was moving as little as possible. I had little strength, little ability to breathe well. Some days were better than others yet they were becoming further and further apart. It was hard to watch my wife not sleeping well, always checking on me, wanting me to go to the emergency room. Still, I pushed through each bout, each fever, each coughing ordeal that made me feel like my chest was gunshot and my back in pain beyond description.

Finally, for my wife and daughter, I allowed her to take me to the emergency room to check things out. I already pretty much knew what would happen and what the outcome would be. After all, I hadn't just sat around during all this time. I had researched signs, symptoms, and forums for others with issues like mine. What had turned up, what they did, what the outcomes were, I knew, and told my wife as much. I pretty much nailed it. Maybe it's why I delayed as long as I did--I was saving her from more of what she might not be ready to hear and of course, what I wasn't going to hear.

Over the course of the night they ran one test after another, growing more concerned as they went. I had breathing treatments and O2 given. Finally having the doctor on call come in and tell me he had some bad news for me.

I watched out of the corner of my eye the faces of my daughter and wife as he proceeded to tell me I had lung cancer with a large mass, plus severe COPD. They wanted to admit me immediately for surgery, chemo and radiation treatments. I watched as the realization of what he had just said washed over my wife and daughter. I just remained as I was. I already knew all of this. I let it go but told him to check me out. I'd seek alternative methods.

The look of shock on the doctor’s face was be priceless. You'd think I had refused to accept the winning lottery first prize as if it were nothing to me.
He released me with a handful of prescriptions to help with breathing and fighting any infection and inflammation.

And so I went home.

I actually did feel much better for a week. I could breathe much better after the treatments to open my lungs, and had a bit of energy to get around. However, over the course of the next 10-14 days I began to go short of breath again, getting weaker, to the point of not being able to get up and move very well. I experienced at least 6 fevers during that time--which I worked through of course--each being in the range of 102 to 104. My wife begged, even threatened, to call 911 over and over again... I said no, absolutely not. Yet even as I stood my ground on the issue of running off to the hospital for every little thing (it seemed to me) I watch the fear, the helplessness, the breaking of my wife over the stress of this. I know it was certainly beginning to affect my daughter as well. Finally, I let her take me back.

They had me in the back immediately, remembering me from last time. The test started. The breathing treatments started, the testing, the needles, the onslaught of doctors and nurses needing one more thing. I didn't want to be here. I hated this. I knew I needed some aid by now but this was also giving up, giving in, and being vulnerable. This was hard. This was really hard. I'm not the one who seeks out or asks for help--I'm stronger than that... I had to learn to be stronger than all that early on. It wasn’t working this time. A lifetime of armor falling away. How can this be? Damnit! G* damnit!

It was just one doctor that came in and actually took time to find out how I felt, and what was possible, and how we could proceed. He was different, different than the rest, somehow. He was listening.

I was admitted, where I stayed about 5 days for test after test and treatments to breath. Finally, after scopes into my lungs, biopsies, and talks back and forth I was comforted by an oncologist who decided to give it to me straight.

I did have lung cancer with a huge mass in my chest, having caused my left lung to collapse so they had to inflate it but with little improvement. (do you mean they tried to inflate it? Need to inflate it? Is inflate even the word you meant? It was the first thing spellcheck suggested.) There could be no surgery, it was too late for that. I should start immediate chemo and radiation without delay--at least begin chemo, which is an everyday session for the first 30 days.

His prognosis was that without this "modern medicine" route I should not expect to live another 6 months, and with the treatment, I might gain 6 months to a year on that.

Again, I watched as the color rushed out of my wife's face, unable to hold back the overwhelming tears of helplessness that lay behind those eyes. Those eyes so full of love and compassion, but no less afraid. (what do you mean by this?) I sat there.

What about family? What about what's important, what about doing what needs to be done, to have even one more day. I smiled. I didn't care.

While many would lose it, fall to pieces, be overcome in emotion, I smiled to myself... I felt good, at peace. How do you feel peace when you've just been told you’re going to die pretty damn soon? I understand death and dying a little differently maybe--it doesn't scare me, it's not an ending, just a transitioning. But for this world and the here and now, something amazing happened.

I felt a ton of weight just leave me. Whatever pressures, baggage, worries, concerns, they all left, disappeared altogether. Come on, really, be told you’re going to die and that's pure freedom, at least to me it was/is. What could I not do, what could anyone tell me I couldn't do? What's the worst thing that could happen… die? Ah, ok, don't throw me in the briar patch.

No, I hadn't forgot anything important at all. It was all entwined in the big ball of weight that had dissolved. Now I had this great big flat surface, clear. Now I could place here what was really important, and what I choose to focus on. Clarity. Understanding. The same kind of place I have reached in meditation practice. It is peaceful. It is calm. I have a new perspective.

I checked out over this doctors’ advice. I told him I was choosing some alternative routes to pursue. With the benefit of some prescriptions for breathing maintenance, I choose the route of working on what directly addresses my issues. But it's not just one alternative method or another, or juicing, or changes in diet (ph. levels), but in my thinking, and imaging, in my self-talk and in my conscious awareness of how it all works together.

You see, I've died many times already. I just don't lay down and die... and what's dying anyway? Living comes naturally. It's just that in today's world, we have given ourselves so little time to breathe, and we lose our energy that powers our living. No, sorry, "I ain't done here yet". My reality is not the one presented to me; I choose differently.

... And you aren't done either. It's time to wake up to your life. It's time to breathe fresh air into that which you came here to do. You have the strength to "push through", and if you reach a point where it seems impossible to go one more step, or to take one more breath, think of LOVE, and it will appear to assist you in all its forms.

Allow, let go, and release what's no longer important…

D.C. 2014

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