Brad Strikes Back

I’m dead-beat. Bone-tired. Wasted.

But I ain’t dead-dead and I ain’t lung-tired. And with my lung transplant, I guess you could say I’m recycled, rather than wasted.

Maybe these jokes don’t make sense. I am exhausted, after all.

My glasses are battered, and so are my shoes. I like ’em that way.

The last time I bought glasses, in August 2016, I was in end-stage CF. I had a panic attack in the eyewear store. Dad was telling me to just get on and pick a pair. I saw the glasses and thought, “I might be buried in these. I might really die in these glasses. Do they leave your glasses on for open caskets? Do I even want an open casket funeral?”

I tried on dozens of frames and looked into my reflection, seeing my dead face peer back each time. The employees at that store saw a man leashed to an oxygen tank, melting down with shuddering breaths and shaky hands. Later, I purchased, from an antique eyewear shop, the same Ray-Ban frames I’ve had since 2011.

In December 2016, I bought myself a pair of egregiously expensive Nike running shoes. I hadn’t run in years. I pitied myself, the day I tried them on. I even cried. Maybe I’d never run again. Was I being overly optimistic by buying those shoes? Would I survive to get my lung transplant? Why buy myself nice things if I was going to die soon anyway? I frightened myself with these thoughts, and then I donated most of my bank savings. I used most of what remained to buy my loved ones really rad Christmas gifts — my grand finale, at the end-stage of CF. Haha. “Finale,” “stage” … get it?

My lung transplant surgery, the encore, would happen two weeks later. I’d put those shoes to good use, and view the most wondrous sights through those glasses. I’d trek through the mystic Grand Canyon, climb up Yosemite’s misty falls above the tallest trees I’d ever seen. I’d take runs to cafes so I could meditate with coffee and plan my life sprint — how I’d make the most of my second chance at life. Now the shoes have holes and stink terribly. But I can’t get rid of them. They cost a lot, ya know? Plus, the sentimentality is priceless.

Brad in Yosemite. (Photo by Rick Dell)

I’ve been sprinting since my transplant. I’m an editor, a writer, a crowdfunding marketer, the Lung Transplant Foundation‘s Northern California Chapter president, a church youth leader, and a soon-to-be foster care support member. People warned me that I’d burn out eventually. I guess they were right. I’ve burned out. But it’s a nice burnout. As I said, I’m not “lung-tired.” CF doesn’t rule my energy anymore.

After my transplant recovery, I felt like Captain America did when he got that Super Soldier Serum. My energy and focus seemed limitless. Seemed. Past tense. It turns out, I’m a normal person, and normal people can’t keep up sprints for long. But for the chronically ill, feeling “normal” is refreshing.

Most of the time, I’m not afraid to die anymore. It would be OK. I’ve had a good run. I’ve fit 10 years’ worth of experiences into one year. The other night, I accidentally shocked Mom when I casually remarked that I couldn’t decide if I wanted to save for a retirement fund since I could die in the next few months for all I know — why not live a fun life and blow money on good food and travel? No one should say that to their mother. She wants me to plan for a life marathon, not a sprint. But we know reality.

My best friend is dating a guy who works for a business called Better Place Forests. Clients adopt a tree, and when they die, their ashes are spread around the tree. I like that more than a casket. Caskets are dead wood, but trees really live; reaching higher and higher.

I won’t need to worry about glasses if I’m ashes. Maybe they can place my broken shoes at my tree, though, with the epitaph: “Here lies Bradley Dell — he sprinted.”

Follow my adventures on my Facebook Page Adamantium Joy.

This was originally posted on my column, Victorious, at Cystic Fibrosis News Today.

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