Saturday, April 7, 2012

Being Grateful

Appreciation is something that is sometimes overlooked in life when talking about happiness. But to me, it’s incredibly important. It requires time, reflection, and stopping yourself at any given moment to take a breath and… be grateful for what you have.

These past several months have certainly not been easy, but then again, they could have been a lot worse.  It took some time, a little shaking up, and some re-evaluating but gratitude showed up in a huge way one day and taught me how important it is.

Experiencing 3 serious lung infections treated by IV antibiotics paired with two hospitalizations, a disconcerting CT scan of my lungs all within 5 months then having to move out of my home and back in with my parents because of someone else’s cigarette habit, added with not being able to return to work was causing a build up of negative stress.

It took a while, but I started to realize that I had a choice. I could choose to view this as - life as I knew it was being controlled by things other than my own choices, or I could see this as an opportunity. An opportunity to focus all of my energy on my health in hopes of turning that horrible looking CT scan of my lungs into clear, infection-free, easy breathing freedom.

Living with my parents for the past 3 months (and couch surfing from my wonderfully giving sister Rachel’s place to my thoughtful caring Grandfather’s place for 2 months prior to that) has allowed me to take a break from cooking, cleaning and all the other daily adult responsibilities. It’s also allowed me to just be with my parents. To some, it may sound lame, boring or regressive, but to me, it’s been really amazing. There’s nothing like the loving care you get from your parents and I’m so grateful for the time I’ve been given to spend with them.

I’ve also been given the opportunity to not have to deal with the stress of work. Yes of course, I absolutely miss my job. Caring for those sometimes incredibly vulnerable families and kids is amazingly rewarding and provides me with a feeling of purpose. However, having the time to focus solely on my daily physiotherapy sessions, medications, rest, exercise, eating well and de-stressing has been a true blessing. I’ve never had this opportunity and it seems it's come at the perfect time.

Moving back to the island has of course put a bit of a kink into my weekly trips to my lovely ENT doctor to have my sinus’ flushed out. Over Christmas I asked him if I could skip the weekly visits and come after two weeks to see how my sinus’ handled the missed flushes.  We spent Christmas in Tofino this year with James’ mother, his sister and her family. My brother-in-law grew up in Tofino and is (of course) an avid surfer. Every time we visit our family in Tofino I insist on getting in the water to surf (well, at least try to surf) with him. This time the purpose of getting in the water was a bit different though.

A few years ago I started a new inhaled therapy called hypertonic saline that was developed based on the improved lung functions and sinus health of surfers with CF in Australia. Of course I do the “medical version” of this treatment every single day but I thought getting in the water for a dose of the real thing was worth a try. Sure enough, after two weeks without my regular ENT visits, my sinus’ actually looked great! It was then that I made a deal with my sinus doctor. I would get in the water regularly if I could skip the weekly visits. Given the state of my healthy, pink and wide-open sinus’, he agreed to see me every two to four weeks depending on the status of my sinus’.

After my other kind and thoughtful avid surfer brother-in-law loaned me his old wetsuit, I was in the ocean every other day with my dear (and maybe a bit crazy) friends Krista and her husband Daryl who encouraged me to get in the water from day one. Talk about supportive friends. Who in their right mind would get in 3 degree ocean water just to support their friend with CF!? You can see why my appreciation was right there in front of me. I even got a swim lesson in the beautiful sea off Quadra Island from Barry Davies who is a competitive Masters swimmer! 

It’s been three months now and other than one minor set back caused by a cold virus, my sinus’ haven’t looked this great in years! With these results I wanted to incorporate my ocean adventures into my regular therapy routine and thought I’d better get a wetsuit of my own.  After doing a bit of research and shopping around, I soon discovered it might be a bit out of my price range since I haven’t been working. After about 3 or 4 weeks of trying different suits on, getting advice from my brother-in-law and trying to figure out how I could swing this financially, Daryl introduced me to the Patagonia company. After watching a clip on their website and exploring their company a bit, I was hooked! I decided to write to the HtO surf shop in Victoria who carries Patagonia wetsuits to ask if they could pass my story onto their Patagonia sales rep to see if I could get a wetsuit at a discounted rate. Nicole, the HtO manager was incredibly kind and agreed to pass my story on. Thank you Nicole! Within the same week I heard the most wonderful news I’d heard since hearing my sister Tara was pregnant with her second! I was ecstatic to read that Ross Mailloux , the BC Patagonia rep, had not only read my story but told me their company would like to give me a wetsuit... free of charge!

WHAT!!!? Ecstatic didn’t even skim the surface of the excitement that was pumping through me! I called Krista and Daryl and my parents right away and told them about Patagonia’s generosity and within a few weeks, I was basking in the ocean in a brand new Patagonia wetsuit!  With this new wetsuit I’ve been able to stay in the water much longer without getting the slightest bit cold. I admire Patagonia as a company because they incorporate environmental issues into their business and have decreased their carbon footprint (something that is incredibly important to me), and they have gone out of their way to help me out.  

I understand companies are called upon by hundreds of different charities throughout the year and are often not able to help. It was Ross’ choice to take the time to read my story, go beyond my request of getting a discount and provide me with a wetsuit for free.  He could have put my email aside and forgotten about it but he didn’t. He chose to go out of his way to support me just as so many other business' have supported the CF cause. Neil Cameron, Editor of the Courier Islander Newspaper even took an interest to what I was doing and came out on one of the windiest days in Campbell River just to write a story and take some pictures of me swimming which will be in the paper on Wednesday April 11th! Thanks Neil! I am truly grateful for everyone's support. 

I believe circumstances present opportunities and it’s up to us to decide whether it will carry us forward or pull us back. If appreciation is not recognized within those opportunities, I believe life can pass you by in the blink of an eye without ever experiencing true happiness. I hope every relative, friend, family-friend, supporter, volunteer, donor and anyone who I might be missing knows how grateful I am for absolutely everything you’ve done for me, my family and the CF community. 

It can be truly amazing what life throws you. So remember to stop and choose how you think about what you've been thrown.

"The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now. And the more grateful you are, the more you get." - Oprah