The other day a group of my friends were talking and someone posed a hypothetical question. “If you could have unlimited money or unfaltering health, which would you choose?”
The first person to jump into the conversation eagerly opted for money. “If you're rich, you can buy all the healthcare you want! Cancer, colds, it's no big deal. You could just buy new body parts.”
This acquaintance clearly has never struggled with health issues.
I've tried to keep things relatively upbeat over here and not focus on the stuff that's been dragging us down, but the truth is I won't be sad to see 2016 go. We came into this year a little worse for wear to begin with. Baby Minion got RSV at the delicate age of 7 weeks old, leading to a damaged set of lungs and an ongoing series of visits to the hospital over a course of months. Then Nate had an emergency appendectomy, and we rounded 2015 out by bringing a gnarly bacteria called C Diff home from the hospital. I was ready for a reset.
And then in January, I got pneumonia. For six weeks. In case you're keeping track of timing, this overlapped directly with the first trimester of a complicated pregnancy. This rough patch was no joke. It's not common for pneumonia to stick around that long, and there was a brief-but-terrifying period there where the doctors were scrambling a bit trying to determine exactly what was going on with me. Visits to pulmonologists ensued. So. Many. Appointments. Tests and labs and monitoring.
You see, my family doesn't have the most stellar track record when it comes to lung health. Lung cancer and interstitial lung diseases both run in my genes…and environmental factors haven't helped. Some of my earliest memories involve loss and death and murmuring whispers in ironically smoke-filled rooms. I stupidly picked up my first cigarette at the age of 12. While I thankfully found my way away from that, I'm painfully aware of the impact that those choices can have on the rest of my life. And while that can certainly play a part, this isn't a concern that only plagues smokers. We lost my grandmother from pulmonary fibrosis just a couple years ago, a woman who never smoked a day in her life. When there's a hereditary tendency towards lung problems – a history of watching loved ones struggle for air – something as simple as pneumonia can feel like a terrifying barrage of attacks.
It all hit me right in the chest.
Fast forward seven months: I'm doing much better. I have the support and resources and a-okay test results that I was looking for. I do still feel a twinge of panic, though, when anyone in my family coughs or lets out so much as a slight wheeze. The most challenging part for me was communicating to my various physicians the worry and the need to eliminate the possibility of more severe issues that were jumping around my mind. They don't know the extent of each person's family history and symptoms, so it's up to each of us to advocate for our own care. I finally got over this bout of illness because I was diligent, persistently following up and communicating when one after another series of antibiotics failed to make a difference in my health. I escalated it to the point of in-depth screening because I know the signs and the risk factors for something worse, and I know that early intervention is key.
We've partnered with LVNG With to help reduce the stigma and misperceptions around lung cancer and show support for those living with this issue. If you live in fear of the disease, know that there are ways to get clear and concise answers. Genetic testing can provide answers and also tell doctors which drugs may be used to target specific mutations. No matter what your results are, there is hope and there are actionable steps from diagnosis to overall life direction. You just have to keep taking steps forward on your journey, maintain faith, and arm yourself with knowledge and support.
Attitude is everything…and laughter is the best medicine in the world.
I have received information and materials from AstraZeneca. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post.