You’ve heard it said that good can come from bad. No, this is not a post on cargo pants, North Korea, or my first kiss. I’m talking about Lung Disease and all it’s serious perks: The advantages of the disadvantaged. But don’t get too excited. There aren’t a lot. But hey…they’re worth mentioning! And I welcome any judgment on the following:
The Handicapped Parking Pass
There’s a reason this is listed first. You all know the feeling: you’re driving around a packed parking lot, you’re already running late, your children are crying in the backseat and you see that coveted spot just steps from the door. BUT ALAS! it’s a handicapped spot. GOSH! You think, if only I had lung disease. Well, guess who gets to park in your celestial spot…ME! Poor fools.
Electronic Wheelchairs in grocery stores
I remember grocery shopping with my grandma and she’d always get to use those gorgeous electronic carts. After we’d finished shopping and had dropped off all the groceries at the car, she’d let me “drive” it back to the storefront (she knew me too well). I never dreamed that I would finally get to be the one in the drivers seat. The envy of all the shoppers in all the world! Sure, they move at a glaciers pace, but rest assured, it beats walking. (As a side note, I’ve discovered the best carts are located at the Harmons in Draper, UT or the Costco in Lehi, UT. Both stores have quality speedsters with nice giddy-up and a fantastic turning radius.)
People/slaves make stair trips for me
Here’s the thing, I hated going up flights of stairs even when I could breathe. I mean, Rocky’s ultimate fitness test was running up those steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Rocky, the greatest fictional fighter of all time, could kill you with one punch, but had to work up to those 72 stone steps. I always played that “Gonna Fly Now” theme song in my head every time I went up a flight of stairs, hoping that my everyman/underdog-rising-to-the-challenge feeling would overwhelm me to greatness. It never did. Now I finally have an excuse to avoid stairs like the plague. I’m not sad about it. But Henry’s butt is starting to look really firm from all those trips I make him do. See? Even YOU can benefit from me having lung disease.
I get bathed, like I’m sure Cleopatra did or Oprah does
Am I right when I say that all a girl wants is to feel like a kid again? And in my case, like a little baby just in from playing with her friends. In short, my husband bathes me. We’re talkin’ lathering up my head with shampoo, rinsin’ me out with a cup of water, and wrapping me up in a towel as he helps me step over the ledge of the tub. I’m serious when I say that this practice may have to continue post lung transplant. I have’t approached Henry about this, but I think he secretly enjoys it as much as I do. Want to spice up your love life? I’m telling you…this’ll do it. Just not in the way you think 😉
Cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.
Guys, I’m Gluten intolerant. Yes. This has proven more difficult for me than lung disease (like, actual tears have been shed over this). So difficult, that I manage to “cheat” and eat Gluten every day. I know! I need to stop! There’s literally no difference in my eating habits from before I was diagnosed to now, except for feeling a lot more guilty about eating that gluten-injected sin. But there are just the the kindest people at church and friends that I seriously believe work for Santa that bring cookies and brownies and bars and goodies and yummies and home baked, ooey-gooey blessed little morsels. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?! I know…give them to my family. Another example of others benefiting from this “trial”.
People smile at me more
I’ve been asked the question, “Do people treat you differently now that you have lung disease?” The answer is this: People smile at me more. A lot more. They’re generally kinder, open more doors for me, and even say “thank you” and “sorry” more! Never in my life have I had so many strangers come up to me, put an arm around me and tell me they’re praying for me. For reals. This happens all the time. Waiters, cashiers, homeless men outside the Fresh Market…you name it. I’m always surprised at how candid and sincere they are. I thought there was this unspoken rule about asking strangers about their ailments. But you know what? I love it. They look me in the eye and say, “God bless you,” and I know they mean it.
I was eating lunch alone in a Thai restaurant one day and as I was leaving, trailing my oxygen tank behind me, a pleasantly old and round construction-worker-grandpa-man just looked up at me over his Pad Nam Prik Pow and smiled the BIGGEST smile. It was the sort of smile a father gives his daughter learning to ride a bike for the first time without training wheels. I swear there was a tear in his eye! It caught me off guard. Everyone should get smiled at like that every day. If everyone were treated like they were having a rough day, I venture to say that this world would be a much better place.
Kids stare at me…and they are NOT shy about it
There’s something we can all learn from the innocence of a child. Staring at strange people is not one of them. But I have to say, it cracks me up whenever a little tyke decides that those plastic tubes coming out of my nose are not supposed to be there, and by golly, they’re gonna figure out what the heck is going on! Sometimes, they’ll just straight up ask, with one eyebrow raised,”Hey, what’re you wearing?” “Why you got tubes on your face?” “What’s wrong with you?.” I’m always happy to explain. The honesty is a breath of fresh air. And that’s exactly what I need these days.
I get out of things I don’t want to do
You need a babysitter for your 3 kids under the age of 4? You need one more member for your Spartan race team? You need a witness at your dog’s christening? Oh sorry, I can’t…I have lung disease.
I get to end every epic story about my life with…”and then I got PVOD”
I’m learning about God and His love
Joking aside, this disease has proven to be the best thing that has ever happened to me. In the midst of all my struggle, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that there is struggle all around us. I see it in every face I see. No one is immune. We all have our challenges. But there is a sweet sort of poetic beauty about it, almost sacred in nature.
A couple months ago, I went to the gym for the first time in a loooong time. I was feeling a little frustrated about my limitations, but feeling good about my effort none the less. A woman who noticed my oxygen tank (not your typical gym accessory) came up to me and politely asked what I had. When I told her about my disease, she informed me that she had been battling breast cancer ( I later learned that she was diagnosed when she was pregnant with her 5th child). I was shocked! She was young and pretty…and couldn’t possibly have been dealt that card. We talked for a minute and snapped a quick pic and went our separate ways. She wrote about our meeting, “Sickies unite! She’s fighting lung disease and gettin’ it done! I know it may sound weird but I love meeting other ‘sick’ people. They strengthen me and make me happy to be in a community of people trying to live a better life.”
THESE are the kind of people I get to meet. These are the kind of people that surround you and me. But most importantly, these are the kind of people we are. You are. I am. It’s like we are all diamonds in a dark room. Our trials shine a spotlight on us and give us an opportunity to really sparkle. We are stronger than we think we are. We are fighters. We are believers. Ever faithful. We have hope. We have courage. We have God. And with God, “…all things are possible” – Matthew 19:26.