The Truth About My Dad, the Hero

The Truth About My Dad, the Hero

Growing up, my closest friends, and myself, were the sons of soldiers during a time of war. The surges in Iraq had taken away our dads during crucial developmental years — late elementary and middle school. Our role models, heroes, were gone for a year at a time and our perception of who they were was built off unreliable childhood memories and intermittent, laggy Skype calls.  

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So, we created mythologies about our fathers. Being the age that we were, every clubhouse meeting or video game hangout was packed with bickering over whose dad was cooler. With the war intensifying, most of our brags revolved around the idea of our fathers being the ultimate warrior-heroes. We didn’t really know what was happening to our dads in Iraq. But we all imagined (aka, lied) that our fathers were mixtures of Chuck Norris, Rambo, and Captain America. If our stories were even half-true, just one of our dads could have won the war single-handedly. One of my most repeated stories was that my dad held some city square on his own against dozens of enemy soldiers for hours until reinforcements came (I think I got the idea from Black Hawk Down). In reality, he never had to fire his weapon at anyone.

I don’t think my friends and I realized it at the time, but these stories helped push back the fears that our fathers might not return.

We all knew the military life. We knew the smell of boot polish that would waft into our rooms at the crack of dawn when our fathers headed out for duties, or the smell of fatigues when we’d press our noses into them upon our fathers’ return home in the afternoon (or a year later after a deployment). We enjoyed speaking in the acronym-obsessive lingo and eating MREs, just to prove we were true military brats. We felt the same pride blooming in our chest while watching our fathers march past in division parades. And we’d all spent nights staring at the sticky glow-in-the-dark stars on our ceilings, apprehensively skirting around the thought that our dads weren’t really invincible. Across the globe, our heroes spent nights staring at real stars above the desert and thinking of us.

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I spent years of my life worrying about my dad. Then last June, he suddenly had to worry about if I would live. After 23 years of fighting my own war against the cystic fibrosis, a blood infection ripped through my system, plunging me into septic shock and crippling my lungs. I entered a state of psychosis when too much carbon dioxide rushed to my brain and was slapped back and forth between hallucinations and a blinding, uncontrollable rage for three days. I ordered my dad around and told him he wasn’t doing enough for me, even mocked him. He’d barely slept, too busy working to meet my every demand and keep me as comfortable as possible while I kicked through this hell.

My doctors said a double lung transplant was necessary for survival — a surgery that could not be performed in Hawaii, where we lived at the time, due to limited resources. Only one hospital, the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), was willing to even evaluate me for transplant due to my complex health history.

My dad’s military training switched on: He thought of himself only in the context of ways he could sacrifice to defend life. Just after being informed I might die, he told my mom they were going to pack their bags as soon as I got well enough to travel, and go get new lungs for his son (who had treated him so cruelly). He had created an ideal life in Hawaii. He had the house he wanted in a great neighborhood, had a job he loved with great benefits and travel, and friends he could call family. He envisioned retiring there, continuing that life of contentment. And he gave it all up in seconds, just based off the chance UCSF might accept me into their transplant program.

The truth is, my dad is not a mix of Chuck Norris, Rambo, and Captain America. But I was right about him being a hero.

He’s the hero who made financial sacrifices to get me the best medications. He’s the hero who taught me that good humor was key to fighting the scariest battles. He’s the hero who worked tirelessly to keep me comfortable and happy, no matter the amount of gratitude I showed. He’s the hero who never once complained about my dependency upon him at an age when most men are out on their own. He’s the hero who spent 24 years fighting an enemy that was tearing me apart from the inside-out. He’s the hero who left his picture-perfect life to ensure I could have a life of my own.

Thanks to his sacrifices, I breathe deeply with new, healthy lungs today.

My dad’s mission wasn’t to hold a city square in Iraq. His mission was to be a good father and keep me alive. Mission accomplished.

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Tomorrows

“Live like your donor is watching.”

That’s a phrase I’ve read/lip read countless times since my transplant. My donor added tomorrows to my life, and I don’t want to waste them. I hope they were watching the past few days.

Saturday

I wasn’t appreciative of nature for most of my life. My family visited the Grand Canyon when I was a kid but I barely saw it. Third-grade Bradley was too engrossed in the new Harry Potter book he had just picked up, refusing to get out of the car or look up for more than a few seconds. Still kicking myself for that. Until the last months of my time in Hawai‘i, I didn’t appreciate the reasons the islands are called “Paradise” by so many. But becoming deaf has had just as much of an effect on my eyes as it has on my ears. Since I can no longer find awe and comfort in my favorite sounds, I enjoy those two feelings through sight instead. The natural beauty of the world has always been in front of me, but I didn’t see it until recently.

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Kristina and I took a mini-road trip through a nearby mountain range that reminds me of the Smoky Mountains my family used to drive through in our Tennessee days — only with Lamborghinis and tricked-out cycles speeding past (typical Silicon Valley) instead of rusted pickups. We were just “taking a drive.” No purpose other than to sip our iced coffee and take in our surroundings.

You know that golden hour between the afternoon and sunset? Where it looks like God wrapped every tree leaf in gold foil, and the rays of the sun peek through here and there, hitting the road and making it glitter? That’s my favorite time of the day to focus on the blessings I’ve been given. To be grateful and let myself happily cry — happy tears aren’t uncommon these days. To experience that hour, up on the mountains and with Kristina at my side… pure bliss.

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Sunday

My dad got discounted tickets to Great America from his work. I was so stoked to finally ride a roller coaster for the first time in years. Alas, my transplant team didn’t think coasters would be a good idea while my surgery site is still healing. But there were a few other rides to check out so we went anyway.

It was a surreal experience. We were standing in probably the noisiest area of San Jose — screeching steel-on-steel coasters, screeching riders, screeching kids begging for treats — yet I didn’t hear a thing. Every once in awhile, my ears suddenly hurt from standing too close to an intercom or roller coaster, but that’s as close as I got to hearing things. Even going on the rides is a different experience than what I’m used to. My heart rate is about a third slower than it was when I was actively battling infections, so the plunges and spins from the rides didn’t have as much of a thrill as they usually do. But, man, it was still fun.

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I haven’t gone to concerts, theme parks, conventions, or anything that draws a big crowd in over a year. I’ve mostly been living in solitude other than when I go to a shopping center or the occasional church event (although I usually end up just sitting in the car out of frustration with my deafness). It felt so satisfying to be around thousands of people who were gathered in a place to do nothing more than have fun.

I’ve been trying to avoid sugar and fried stuff, but it would be ridiculous to skip out on funnel cake.

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Monday

I didn’t just not care about nature “back in the day” — I hated hiking. To me, it was just a waste of energy to walk uphill a bunch and stare at trees and water falling off rocks. I didn’t get the big deal.

But I needed to waste energy, pronto, after finding out I would have to wait an extra month to get my cochlear implant surgery due to scheduling conflicts and so I was freaking out real bad. Anxiety disorder is basically when this huge ball of energy builds up in the chest, getting bigger and bigger, squeezing out from your eyes in tears and making the brain “rngvuirenuvjeroivjeriu.” The energy can eventually get too big for the body to contain and spark a full-blown panic attack. When I feel the energy building, the best way to stop the attack in its tracks is to somehow expel that energy: by tiring myself out. So, the moment Kristina mentioned wanting to go on a hike “one day,” I said we’re going now.

The hike up to Castle Rock was the most I’ve challenged my new lungs outside of my pulmonary rehab class. My legs burned, but that was okay. It was a good burn. It’s still so cool to feel my muscles get tired before my lungs do. I would not have been able to do this hike just a few months ago. Or even a few weeks ago. And, hey, those trees, rocks, plants were actually really pretty. The deer that ran across the path was even prettier. Maybe hiking isn’t so bad after all. Kristina and I are already planning to go again.

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These might seem like “pretty decent” days to the average person. To someone who might be dead today if transplant wasn’t an option, these days are miracles. I hope my donor isn’t just watching, but is also able to feel what I feel and know they (or their family) made the right choice in checking off that organ donation box.

And I hope you, whoever you are, read this and decide to become a donor too so you can potentially add tomorrows to someone else’s life: RegisterMe.org

The Joy of #Gainz

The Joy of #Gainz

I used to spend every Tuesday and Thursday at a gym used exclusively by elderly, retired Olympic athletes (and me, the only young guy).

Okay, it’s actually a pulmonary rehab class at the local hospital. But most of my elderly gym buddies were definitely stronger than me. When I first started attending the class, the areas on my arms and legs where muscle would normally be were useless, wobbly flabs. In the words of a physical therapist I met during my time in San Francisco, my muscles were “totally wasted.” It’s also pretty difficult to breathe heavily through my Bane-esque anti-bacterial mask and my right shoulder has been killing me ever since the big surgery. (Now I’m just making excuses.)

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Seriously, this mask sucks!

So, anyway, all these elderly folk were whooping me at every exercise, forcing my insecure self to form this imaginary narrative about them being world-class athletes once upon a time.

They deserve to be thought of as superhuman — they’re extraordinarily kind people. While I’m probably one of their youngest buddies, I’m probably not the only deaf one. The moment they learned I couldn’t hear, they all took to smiling the most smiley smiles at me and using hand motions to communicate (lots of thumbs ups when I do well at an exercise). And they always show appreciation for my Star Wars and Marvel shirts — the only short-sleeved T-shirts I own. They also bring loads of sugary baked goods. The physical therapists chide them and say it’s bad for their health — one hand wagging a finger, the other hand holding one of the desserts. Who can resist treats from people who look like their grandparents? They’re great!

The reality is all these people have breathing troubles of some sort. As I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve come to realize that I’m no longer at a gym used by retired Olympic athletes. I’m at a gym for the sick. My belief that these were super-fit people was bred from my super-weak, recovering-from-major-surgery perspective. While I’m steadily getting stronger, stronger, stronger, most of them are getting physically weaker. Thanks to them attending rehab, it’s a “one step forward, two steps back” deal. If they didn’t attend, it might just be “two steps back, two steps back.” I’m nearly jogging on the treadmill, while the man next to me is grabbing for his oxygen mask every few seconds as he steps.. steps.. steps.. More a slow march than a walk. I’ve noticed his oxygen needs have increased since we first met… and that frightens me.

Frankly, many are as unhealthy as I was before transplant. And I now realize how bad it really was for me. I guess it was hard to be self-aware of my physical weakness before. I just walked several miles the other day with relative ease, and so it now seems so laughable that I once celebrated doing one mile in a single day.

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Remember when I celebrated walking a mile in January?

I always try to be transparent on this blog: pre-transplant, I felt bitterness towards my fit peers. I hated that their athleticism emphasized my weakness. Another confession: I often feel self-pity for my past self, built upon hindsight. I view “Sick Brad” as this totally different person. And I pity him, and I sometimes pity my exercise buddies because I see Sick Brad when I look at them struggling. It makes me sometimes want to hold back from working hard, because I don’t want the others in the gym to feel the bitterness I once felt towards those who were stronger.

(Again, this is just me being transparent. I fully recognize that those feelings are totally un-cool.)

My exercise buddies are much wiser than I, though, and based on their genuine excitement about my rapidly improving health, I think they would want me to focus on gratitude of now rather than the self-pity and bitterness of then. Since I came to this conclusion, I’ve begun to push myself much harder than ever before. I’m adding weights, adding speed, adding different machines, adding miles, all that. I’m working myself into a puddle of sweat and seeing noticeable improvement between each rehab session. And the joy on the faces of my classmates hasn’t diminished. They’re all still cheering me on. I’m just relieved the rehab class is filled with people who are much more mature and selfless than Sick Brad. And I hope I’m wrong about them not getting healthier, ‘cause they deserve the best.

Anyway, I still have a whole summer of rehab left, so I’m going to update my blog every once in awhile to record my progress. I’m going on big trips to Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado in August, so I want to be in tip-top shape by then.

Since I first began rehab in late March, I:

  • Went from workload #1 on my Nu-Step machine to workload #6, also doubling the rate of leg pumps and tripling time spent on the machine (15 minutes).
  • Went from 1.5 mph on the treadmill for 5 minutes to 4 mph for 15 minutes.
  • Went from 1 lb. dumbbells to 5 lb. dumbbells.
  • Went from 3 minutes on the elliptical to 15 minutes.
  • Started stair machine for 5 minutes.
  • Walked 7.6 miles on Monday and climbed 17 floors, walked 6.1 miles on Tuesday. I forget how much I could do in March, but 4 miles was a huge accomplishment in April.

My legs are getting much stronger, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Unfortunately, I can only strain my arms a little since I still have my PICC line in. Once that’s out (hopefully in July) and my incision heals a little more, I’ll shift focus to working out my upper body.

Should be fun! Got the new lungs; let’s get a new body (preferably by working out instead of via transplant).

Strong in the Broken Places

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” – Hemingway

Just months ago, I was repulsed by my body.

My arms were thin as twigs and barren of muscle, hanging from a bumpy, pale torso—bumpy from the ribs that protruded, the port-a-cath that sat beneath pockmarked skin, the rubber feeding tube above my belly button. Below my torso: thighs striped with purple skin due to extreme doses of steroids. Above: Thin, brittle hair and stained teeth; victim to caustic medication.

Holding my kintsugi bowl, five months post-transplant.

These imperfections were physical evidence of cystic fibrosis and I hated them for that. I refused to go shirtless at the beach, hunched my shoulders forward to make the port stick out less, sucked my stomach in so the feeding tube couldn’t be seen through my shirt, avoided doing work that would make my muscle weakness evident. Most of my friends knew I had cystic fibrosis but I always tried to hide how severe it was. My disease made me feel weak and ugly.

The evidence of my cystic fibrosis is still there today, with slight changes. My ribs poke out a little less, there are now a couple two-inch scars where my port was (we removed it when it got infected in June and almost killed me), my hair is even thinner, my muscle has further deteriorated from weeks in the hospital. I also have a PICC line (IV) in my right arm. The biggest of “slight changes” is a gigantic scar stretching across my chest and four round scars—two on each side of my rib cage. Evidently, removing/inserting lungs and chest tubes requires some cutting here and there.

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Hopefully, I don’t get many more large scars for a long, long time

While I don’t necessarily have less marks of the “diseased life,” my perspective on what they mean has shifted. I’ve begun to think of these marks as symbols—evidence of strength rather than weakness. The scars and imperfections are reminders of endurance and battles I probably shouldn’t have survived. Even at times I felt like giving up, my body kept struggling through: matter over mind, for once.

A year ago, I was in the dumps about how broken my body was—my ears and lungs were steadily shutting down. Someone anonymously left a blue ceramic bowl on my desk at work to cheer me up. The bowl was “broken,” but gold filled the cracks through kintsugi (“golden joinery”). Kintsugi is a Japanese art: broken pottery is repaired with gold, silver, or platinum. With these careful fixes, the pottery is even more beautiful than when it was whole. I didn’t know it then, but I was about to undergo the same treatment as the pottery. However, the cracks across my broken chest are filled with purple scar tissue rather than gold.

I’ve found beauty in that symbolism, and in my body as a result. I wouldn’t go as far as saying my body’s current state is my ideal. I still have a long way to go in repairing things and building muscle (that topic will be covered in my next post). But at least I am learning to be happy with the body God has given me. It’s taken me far, far, far and proven that it’s not as weak as I previously judged it to be.

Including a photo of my body is a big step for me in having positive body image. I don’t want to be ashamed anymore.

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A couple former sites of chest tubes, plus the bruising that still remains. Above is part of the transplant scar: cut in “clamshell” fashion and sewed up beautifully by my amazing surgeon.

P.S. Scars are cool and make ya’ look tough, right?

Want to donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to help find a cure? Check out my Great Strides page! Click here.

Cathedral

Okay, guys. I’m finally doin’ it. I’m living like Theo R. Since writing that post, I discovered living independently as a deaf dude can be rather disappointing and scary: people can be incredibly rude/mean about my poor communication skills, crossing streets without being able to hear cars is dangerous, and ordering things from cafes/restaurants can be facepalmingly frustrating. But with new lungs comes new confidence. Sometimes I have to remind myself that if I can handle getting cut open, then I can handle glares, rolled eyes, and getting hit by cars (ok, maybe not the last part).

*I’m mostly writing the following for my own benefit — so I can read it on days I feel discouraged about being adventurous.*

Wednesday was beautiful. I woke up packed with so much energy, my leg muscles were twitching and my smile wouldn’t leave my face. The towns near my house that I usually frequent were too small for my energy that day, so I took the bus to downtown San Jose by myself for the first time (I know, I sound like a little kid being proud of myself for visiting the big city on my own).

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Took this pic for a friend who’s in Rotary Club. My energy’s pretty evident here.

I started things off with a cold brew coffee from the delicious cafe, B2, as if I needed the extra energy. The barista saw my famous “Deaf, but friendly” pin on my shirt and was super kind, pointing to cream and sugar rather than trying to get me to rely on lip reading like most baristas do. People who go out of their way to help like that really make a difference in my day. I hope my hefty tips make a difference in theirs. They deserve it! (If you work in a service industry, feel free to ask me how you can help deaf people with accessibility.)

Caffeine pulsing through my veins, I set off to check out the MLK Jr. Library a few blocks away. This huge library is run cooperatively by the city and San Jose State University. It had a Civil Rights Movement exhibit that was pretty intriguing: loads of California newspaper clippings provide a west coast perspective on the movement I hadn’t considered before (having mostly studied it in the South). The library also had the biggest collection of indie graphic novels I’ve ever seen. I’m mad at myself for not bringing a bag with me so I could check some out.

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That whole building is a library!

I toured the San Jose State University campus, weaving my way around students studying for final exams on the lawn and thinking how crazy it is that it’s been about a year since I graduated. Probably my most eventful year yet — and simultaneously the best and worst year, as confusing as that is.

I took a stroll around the historic area of downtown and learned plenty about the city’s history thanks to placards posted along the streets. The sweltering 93-degree weather forced me to duck into the nearest area I could find with free indoor public seating. I found myself in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, just me and a lady in this massive sanctuary. I’m not Catholic, and I usually frown upon the idea of cathedrals for various reasons, but it was a moving experience to sit there and pray to God, thanking Him that I have the privilege to walk freely and happily. I also reflected on my favorite short story, “Cathedral,” by Raymond Carver. In the story, a blind man teaches a disillusioned man that “looking” is not all there is to “seeing” — the blind man’s disability has given him a different perspective on life than most. For all the trouble it’s caused me, deafness has done the same for me.

A park in the center of the city was my last stop. I saw this dude in a Superman shirt buying what looked like heroin, and I felt this sadness come over me. The guy was so young and healthy-looking, I couldn’t help thinking he was wasting it all. I sat down on a bench and five minutes later, the drug dealer was in handcuffs just feet away from me and the Superman shirt guy was patting him down, shirt now tucked behind a police badge on his belt. Then a couple more dealers in handcuffs and undercover narcs came to join the party. That was a pretty interesting way to cap off my day.

By the end of all this, I had walked about four miles. Just several days ago, two or so miles was my max (mostly due to some extreme shoulder aches I’ve been having when I stand too long), and remember it was about 93 degrees on Wednesday. Looks like my pulmonary/physical rehab has been paying off! More on that topic later. All-in-all, it was one of my best days yet. I only got flipped off once by a lady riding a bike (I didn’t hear her coming behind me, so didn’t step aside), and only almost got hit by a car once! Totally worth it for a day of independent adventure.

I wrote all this in a cafe at Campbell (had another nice barista!) today. Time to explore the area before the caffeine wears off!

P.S. Found a lovely ‘joy quote’ today: “Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in be lifeboats.” – Voltaire.

Back and Better Than Ever (Really)

It’s been a minute! Lost my computer charger and publishing from my phone proved to be a frustrating experience. I’ve also been writing a little less in general, mostly because I’ve just been so happy. One of my English teachers once said it’s harder to put words to paper when we aren’t dependent upon writing for coping, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t write. There’s enough writing out there bred of heartbreak, fury, frustration, etc.. So, in the spirit of Adamantium Joy, here’s an update on my easy, easy life (ok, there are a couple problems, but I’ll talk about that in another post). 

  1. These lungs are pretty perfect!

I just had my three-month check-up, which included a CT scan, bronchoscopy, and lung function test.

Increased:

-lung function.

-weight (very slowly).

Decreased:

-medication dosages.

-side effects.

No:

-signs of lung rejection.

-infection (one bacteria, but my doctor doesn’t think it’s an active infection).

Yeah, boyyyy! What a treat to look at my CT scan and not see cavities, mucus plugs, lung scarring, and all that jazz. A few weeks ago, one of my doctors said my lungs are “perfect.” No person with cystic fibrosis ever thinks they’re gonna hear those words. But looking at that CT scan, I gotta agree.

  1. These lungs are also great wingmen!

Kristina came to visit for a week and we had one of the best weeks of our relationship. We met when I was already low in lung function (5.5 years ago), so we were never really adventurous. Okay, okay, our Netflix obsession also got in the way of us being active. But after getting new lungs and watching all that Netflix has to offer, we set out for day-long adventures around the South Bay and Monterey Peninsula. My leg muscles still aren’t where I want them to be, but it was bliss to be able to drive as far as we wanted without having to worry about lugging oxygen tanks, keeping track of how many liters of air I have left, or being paranoid about cell phone signals in case we get the surgery call. Also, Kristina can’t yank on my oxygen line like it’s a leash anymore…

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It was nice to be the one pulling a leash for a change! Dog owner and photographer: Kathleen Sheffer!

If we could have that much fun just 2.5 months after surgery, how much fun will we have this summer?

  1. Some uncertainties, but the future will be great anyway.

So, I’m halfway to the big six months post-transplant! That month means a lot to the transplant community in general – lots of restrictions get lifted (can take probiotics, do more active sports, travel, etc.). For me, it means even more: if things continue to go smoothly, the docs think we can schedule my cochlear implant surgery for July. Fingers crossed! I would still have to wait a month to allow the surgery site to heal before activating them though, so August is when I would actually hear.

I’m also hoping to do some travel, if things work out. One of my favorite people, Chris Haylett, is getting married in July, so heading up to Seattle for that would be really cool. And maybe it would make up for the multiple marriages I’m missing in Hawaii since I can’t travel by plane yet (I’m getting old, all my friends are getting married!). There’s also a Baptist Collegiate Ministry conference in New Mexico this August that a bunch of my college buddies will be at. Hoping I can make it to one of these big events!

Until all that, I’m going to be doing pulmonary rehab (post about that coming soon), reading, sipping overpriced hipster coffee, cooking, and planning for the big future. Oh yeah, and being more frequent in my blog posting.

Looking out upon the hills of California’s coast on a recent drive, I decided the future looks pretty golden.

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The Almost Not-Stabby Ides of March

Sorry about not blogging these past weeks. Things got tough for a while because of medicine side effects, which made it difficult to sit down and focus on writing. Nobody said getting a transplant would be easy, I guess! Here’s a quick catch-up:

Despite my side effect troubles, I still had a lot of fun times. I watched plenty of great movies, visited some of the best museums I’ve ever been to, had green tea and mochi at the gorgeous SF Japanese Tea Garden, ate loads of crab (the only meat I could stomach with all my nausea), got my first-ever professional massage to fix some back problems, caught up with Jay (my Ka Leo advisor/someone I consider to be a mentor), and hung out with fellow transplantee (heart AND lungs) Kathleen! San Francisco is truly a fantastic city. But, man, I was ready to go home—and it feels great that I’ve adjusted enough to California to consider San Jose “home.” The doctors finally released me this past Friday. Once I returned to San Jose, loads of my problems—leg cramps, foot/ankle swelling, nausea, anxiety, etc.—magically disappeared.

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Yesterday was my last doc appointment for the next three weeks. I had a bronchoscopy to check for any rejection/infection, and the results are in: all clear. My lung function wasn’t as high as I was hoping for (52%, a 1% increase from my last testing) and my weight was down 15 pounds, though. That freaked me out big time. But my doctor really wasn’t worried. He reminded us that I just shed a ton of water weight (from all the swelling/steroids) and that my lung function is still going up, not down. Plus, all the nausea/cramps/swelling/yaddayadda was keeping me from exercising my new lungs much. So, we expect the next tests to show much better improvement. Talking to Kristina tonight also helped—she reminded me that my lung function is still better than it was before I started my health spiral about two years ago.

Today, I celebrated the Ides of March by—ironically—not getting stabbed (by nurses). It was my first day of being truly independent. My parents both returned to work (I’m super happy for them), so I had to handle all my medications and whatnot. Day 1: Success! Woke up, had a shower and floral tea, played video games, read the news and some blogs, walked to a café for some mocha and Greek salad, read Raymond Carver poetry, walked home, then read some more in my backyard hammock. The warm weather is just, ugh, amazingamazingamazing, after all those cold SF days.

It’s fitting that I’m reading Carver’s works. A lot of his material is about finding beauty in what is usually thought of as ordinary/mundane. I don’t take the little things (like waking up in the morning without gasping for air, the flowers growing in the cracks of the sidewalks on my walk) for granted anymore. Everything was beautiful today.

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I spent about three hours cooking dinner from scratch—black-eyed pea jambalaya, smothered green beans with bacon, and cornbread—for my parents and my nausea-free-self, and dang! Cooking is quite the workout when all your arm/shoulder muscles have wasted away. But it was worth it. My mom said I cook like a Southern grandma, which is the best compliment you can give a cook, in my oh-so humble opinion. Kristina called me a “stay-at-home son.” I guess I’m fine with that until I’m strong enough to get a full-time job.

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Now I’m nursing my sore back on my acupressure mat. I guess the Ides of March is stabby after all… Dad just came in and stabbed me with a needle—blood thinner medication (oh yeah, I got blood clots in my left arm. Ouch.). “Et tu, Dad?” But he reminded me that today is exactly two months since I got rolled into surgery for the lung transplant, so I forgive him.*

Two months ago, I was getting sedated on an OR table, uncertain if I would even wake up. Tonight, I go to sleep with a full belly and a smile. Excited to wake up for another successful day.

*Totally joking, I’m so grateful he gives me the shot because I’m too much of a weenie to do it myself.