Anyone who knows me knows that I have a couple of weaknesses. (Well, okay, so maybe more than a "couple," but really, who's counting?) The first, if I'm being completely honest, is probably candy, but the second, and far more important one for the purposes of this post, is most definitely anything bright, shiny, and colorful. In college I had a friend who used to joke about my "inner raccoon" because of my tendency to be mesmerized by things that glitter, sparkle, or glow in any way. More than one trip to Vegas has included a story about me wandering off from my friends, only to be found staring at the slot machines (not playing, mind you -- staring). I sometimes think I chose to move to New York City not so much because I wanted to go to law school here, but because it has some absolutely amazing views of lights at night. And, of course, more recently I flat-out insisted that the Christmas tree in my apartment (where my whole fabulous family is gathering for the holiday, because they love me that much!) have multi-colored lights instead of plain white. It's not that I don't love elegant -- it's just that I prefer my tree to look like a rainbow that just happened to land in my corner, if possible.
My third weakness, believe it or not, is fish.
Yes, I have a thing about fish. I have no idea when it started, or how I got so hooked on those little swimmy creatures, but I have to admit that I am, in fact, an addict. I love watching them, love going to aquariums, and tend to get super over-excited whenever I spot them out in open water. And yes, I am completely aware that this is an odd little quirk of mine (particularly given the fact that I a) have been bit by a dolphin, and b) once had a seagull poop in my hair while visiting SeaWorld, either one of which you'd think would have turned me off to aquatic animals altogether), but frankly I just can't help myself. I mean sure, they're slimy and they smell bad, but they're also graceful and beautiful and, well, colorful.
So I guess given these combined obsessions, it's no wonder why I pushed so hard for my family to spend New Year's 2007 at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It's still a bit of a mystery to me where I picked up the original idea, but I do know for certain that my main plan for the trip involved me, a snorkel, warm summer waters (Southern Hemisphere), and a whole lot of gorgeous, wildly colorful sea life. Think all the spectacle and glitz of Vegas lights multiplied by 100, but without the cheesyness and theme-based restaurants, and you'll probably have a pretty good idea of what I had in mind.
What I did not have in mind, however, was CF.
I'm not going to go into the events that led me to get as sick as I did before that trip, but suffice it to say that I should never have gone. I was flailing, literally, and everyone around me could see it a whole lot better than I could at the time. All I knew was that this was my trip, my idea, my family vacation, and I was not going to miss out on it for any reason -- even a really, really good one. So I went, despite everyone's pleas and warnings and despite my own best interest, and trekked around Sydney despite mind-blowing pain, and I ate kangaroo despite having no appetite whatsoever, and I snorkeled, of course, despite not being able to breathe.
Well, sort of.
It would be more accurate to say that I floated, supported by multiple "noodles" because I was too tired to really swim and because I knew that at any moment I might have to yank my head out of the water and take out my mouthpiece to get a good breath. And in between these panicked gulps for air, I peered down at the magical world floating just below me and tried to make out the colors through the tears accumulating in my facemask. I made my sister stay right next to me the entire time, smart enough at least to know that if you're going to snorkel in the ocean while sick, it's best to use the buddy system. And I tried as best I could to recapture some of the excitement and wonder of previous snorkeling expeditions, knowing that I had risked too much not to at least savor the moment. Unfortunately, I guess I had to learn the hard way that it's hard to savor anything when you're feeling strangled.
Trust me when I say it's not a coincidence that no pictures from that family vacation grace the walls or bookshelves or nightstands of any of my family's homes. Honestly, it's painful even to write about, because it makes me feel silly and selfish and ashamed all over again. And yet, at the same time, I'm actually thankful in a weird way for the whole experience. I had definitely pushed myself too hard, let illness go too long, not been in proper control of my CF to the best of my ability, before "Australia-Gate 2007," but never before had I been so forced to face the consequences. For better or for worse, I can honestly say that I have never since put off contacting my doctor or those dreaded IVs, and remarkably I've found that most of the time this works to my advantage. True, I have to face the fact that something planned long in advance might have to be canceled last minute due to CF -- and that royally sucks sometimes, no doubt about it -- but at least I'm not likely to find myself half a world away from my doctor and drowning. It's an experience I'd prefer not to relive, I guess.
Or at least not relive entirely, because there are definitely aspects of that trip that still make me swoon. Namely, my family, the color, the beauty, and, yes, the fish. So the other day when I sat down to make a list of the many things I plan to do with my new lungs, is it any wonder that "snorkel somewhere beautiful" came in pretty close to the top of the list? And as I sat there writing that goal out on paper for the very first time since January of 2007, I was struck by one simple, yet amazing, fact: achieving it is entirely possible for me. Even likely. And this time I promise you that I will savor every second.
Because breathing is a miracle. Especially underwater.
- I am a 33-year-old wife, sister, daughter, friend, law school graduate, CFer, lifelong student of public service, blog writer, patient, Sagittarius, reader, Top chef fan, double-lung transplant recipient (twice!), and dog owner living in Colorado's beautiful Mile High City. I love all things colorful, funny, inspiring, or needlessly sarcastic. I share my city with about 2,500,000 other remarkable people, share my disease with 70,000 other beautiful souls, share my life with some unbelievable family and friends, and share my apartment with one very handsome guy and one really fat mutt with a kick-butt personality. We make it work.
About This Blog:
This blog is about me, my life, my sometimes craziness, my disease, and my current journey as a double-lung transplant recipient. It's also a celebration of everyone out there with CF (and other chronic illnesses). It's for you, inspired by you, and dedicated to you -- the community that keeps me writing, living, and breathing.
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