Friday, 31 January 2014

Last corollary of Murphy's Law? If it was bad, it will be back

I got spammed, or something on Tuesday.  My blog got "visited" by a ghost from twenty five years or more in the past.  I thought I had problems moving on!  

Anybody can post whatever they want on my blog.  I will decide if the comments are appropriate or not.  Odds are, if you wish me dead in your comment, I am going to delete it and block your ass. I will block the next and the next and the next accounts you create.  I will forward to google and authorities as called for.  

We now resume our normal programming.  Nicole story part V shortly.  Love.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Thoughts after the call

I had a feeling last Thursday that this is the day I get the call. When the phone rang at 9:00 AM I yelled to Nicole that it was going to be the Notre Dame transplant folks.  It wasn't, but I was only off by a few hours.  They called at 2:00 PM.

"Meester Rouselle Micaratin is he you?"  I knew it was them.  I said yes.  I did not hear anything for a moment after she said "Je suis Marie Yanik de Centre de transplantation Lachapelle au Centre Hospitalier Notre Dame.  I sighed and gushed, eventually. She laughed gently.  I guess she is used to the reaction.

I sat in shock for a little while.  I was alone, Nicole napping, I did not want to wake her up.  I posted to G+ and enjoyed the reaction from friends.  Nicole cried for joy when I told her later.  

The quiet time is over, again. That lovely time when I do not have to push or struggle, just live.  

Who knows what is going to happen.  The odds are stacked against me, as it is with anyone who wants new lungs, but I already have beaten a lot of odds just getting to the front door of Notre Dame.  I want to live!

I have been imagining the surgeon's scalpel doing it's extreme work on me.  What is it like to wake up afterwards?  Will I survive the operation?  What if I mine is one of the many failures that results in a greatly reduced quality of life?  Am I really doing this for me? 

So far ahead of myself, really.  For now there is an appointment on Feb 25.  An eval process will be started.  The Late Dr. has provided me with a full file.  Most of what they will want is already done.  It will come down to my body chemistry, their tolerance for non biopsied slow growing tumors.

I had a discussion with Nicole yesterday about my cannabis use. I think there may be a problem with this.  I have time to stop using it and clear my bloodstream before the appointment.  I have decided not to do that.  I will tell them everything and see what happens.  I am prepared to toss cannabis out of my pharmacopeia if I must, but I would much rather not do so.  I wake up in the morning suffocating, coughing, sweating and fighting to calm my body and emotions.  I pop a few coco oil cannabis caps or a cookie and 90 minutes later I am smiling, talking, working and managing my body, mind and breath.  I will give it up if I must, but I would on the whole, rather not.

Overall, I would say I am feeling the first tinges of fear of the whole process.  Frankenstein came to mind a number of times yesterday.  I can feel the scalpels.

February 25 will be a long and busy day.  I have my second appointment with my new pneumologist at the Jewish General and a PFT (pulmonary function test) in the morning and the initial evaluation at Notre Dame at 1:00.  Between now and then I am supposed to have an echocardiogram and a CT scan at Lakeshore.
The cardio is a routine follow up for my heart after the attacks of the fall and the CT scan is hopefully to show the tumor is not growing.

I will turn my fear into fascination of the process.  I am going to learn a lot about a lot of things.  I will see fascinating technology and meet amazing people who want nothing more than to see me reborn.  

So, we have arrived.  Within a couple of months I will either be unlistable, listed or listable but not sick enough yet.  Not on the list but listable is ok.  You are going to get on it, eventually.  Most people who get listed get lungs, about 15% die on the list.  

It has been a wild ride kind of year.  First The Dr. tells me in early March 2013 that I qualify for a lung transplant.  I say go for it.  A month and a half later, a tumor whose investigation takes a couple of months, heart attacks a couple of months after that, followed by The Dr.'s death and my chart stalled on his desk just before Christmas.  It is all over now.  The answers will be here soon.  I will accept whatever comes, gracefully. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A Nicole Story Part IV

Being at home for the weekend after two weeks in the ICU of the stroke trauma team, was a tonic for Nicole.  She was radiant.  She was still mute but you could tell she was aware that she was home.  She and I we communicating in some way I can't explain very well.  Looks, touches, me talking trying to get close to what she wanted me to see or understand, head shakes yes or no.  It bloody worked!  I had promised her a few days earlier that we would go one step at a time.  When she tried to express something we would not go on to anything else until I understood her, no matter how long it took.  She was not going to be frustrated by losing her voice.  The time I was spending at night online communicating with people who knew what she was facing paid off so much.  I learned the right questions for the doctors and the therapists.  I had insight into how to work the system to her advantage.  I was no longer in the dark about what help she needed to have the best chance of as much recovery as would be possible. Now to make it happen.

I took her back to the hospital on Sunday night.  As during our drive home from the hospital, Nicole was terrified.  Remember, everything she sees she sees for the first time.  Within a minute or two of getting in the car we are speeding down an expressway in traffic.  She whimpered and tried to duck down.  I had to slow down as much as was possible, hold her hand and talk soothingly.  I told her where she was, what we were doing.  None of it made much sense to her yet, but in time it would.  She was my big, beautiful baby.

We were now a week before Christmas.  I got to the hospital on Monday morning to find Nicole walking up and down to hallway tugging on the nurses gowns, yelling, "therapy, therapy!"  Everybody was smiling.

A meeting with Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Minuk and a group of therapists.  They were cautious with offering up too much hope. She had sustained major brain damage to her frontal lobe, the broca center destroyed.  She is fluent aphasic.  She has major damage to her right field of vision, it will never come back.  

We were told, as I had already learned, that time was of the essence.  The sooner therapy started the better.  The best thing now was to place her into a convalescent hospital for the allotted three months.  Nicole and I were behind this idea.  We had already started.  I gave Nicole pencil and paper.  I still have the marks and notes she made in the early days on those sheets of papers.  That week her voice came back.  She could say words.  The wrong words mostly.  No sentences.  We had a discussion a few days earlier with Dr. Minuk who suggested that because Nicole was a true left handed person she had a better chance at gaining back some of the deficits. When I looked into that it seemed so.  The afternoon I was writing and reciting numbers one through ten.  She could say some of them, not others.  It was encouraging.  Next morning at home, very early, the phone rings.  A hoarse little voice proclaiming loudly, "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and I can go FOREVER".  That, I shall never, ever forget. A sentence!  A whole idea expressed!  That was not going to happen very often for many, many months.  If it happened once, surely we could make it happen more frequently.

About this time you must understand that I am not driving things anymore.  Nicole is, through me.  Remember, we don't go on to something else until we are straight on what she is trying to say.  We just don't.  The Doctors understand that, the nurses and therapists too.  I am her translator.  She makes me understand what she wants, I report it.  I am her tool.  Everybody adores her and wants to help her.  She never stops smiling.

Being the holiday season there is some problems getting her into the facility that the trauma team has picked for us, The Julius Richardson Institute.  Top shelf place, and, that poses a problem.  Nicole cannot go from home to the Julius Richardson.  She must go straight from the hospital to be treated as an inpatient.  We started asking questions about how much therapy she would receive each day.  It amounted to three hours.  We were told that there was also a possibility of her being treated as an outpatient at the Julius Richardson, 3 times a week for 3 hours each visit.  They could stretch that out over 6 to 8 months.  I felt that we could do more work together if she took primary therapy as an out patient.  During the time in the hospital I had found a part time job, sole employee of a BBQ propane fill shop.  Dead in the winter, all I had to do was be there.  They were cool with me bringing my wife with me to do work with her.  They understood my situation and it suited them fine.  I had contacted a few lawn bowling buddies to arrange for help with transport.  If we were going to do outpatient I was going to need a lot of help.  For the first few months between her therapy sessions and her medical appointments we would need up to ten transports a week from Pierrefonds to downtown Montreal.  Our friends stepped forward with the help we needed.  They would be there for her.  We decided to go with outpatient and bring Nicole home.  We could work 24/7.  Since her stroke Nicole never can use the word work.  She says play instead.  And so it is.  

Just before Christmas she came home for good.  The good therapists at the MGH loaded us up with books and exercises to do.  Mom had the cards and board games out.  We were ready to play.  We were going to go back to the MGH in the new year, 2000, for follow ups.  We still did not know why it happened. They were not going to stop until they understood why is what Dr. Minuk told us.

Next:  We meet the angels at the Julius Richardson

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A Nicole Story Part III

The time frame of events in 1999 gets fuzzy from here in 2014.  I have spent much time in the last few days trying to remember the first days after the stroke. 

On day three Nicole retreats further into herself.  She barely wakes up in the morning.  During the night she would wake up and "ask questions" without words.  Words were gone sometime during the second day.  She was completely mute.  She would use her eyes, she would squeeze me.  I talked and talked to her.  

I had had by then some time to think when she was sleeping.  Whenever I could I told her that I would be her voice going forward.  I would represent her, I would think only of her best interests. I told her I knew she was still there.  Her eyes and her squeezes through her confusion had made me understand.  She did not know where she was.  She did not know when "now" was.  She had no long term memory, no short term memory.  The prognosis was not good according to the trauma team.  There had still not been enough time to process the changes we faced.  The fear and terror was still focused entirely in the now, figuring out what had happened and fixing it if it could be fixed.

Sometime on day three, mid afternoon if I remember rightly, I noticed she would not wake up, she did not move.  Her vital signs had changed.  Blood pressure had dropped significantly. She was smiling like an angel while she lay on her back propped up on pillows.  The nurses came.  Dr. Lawrence came.  The verdict was that Nicole was now in a coma.  I freaked out entirely.  The stroke trauma team seemed satisfied to monitor what they said was a natural evolution of a stroke such as she had.  I implored Dr. Lawrence to do an MRI to compare to the one they had done two days earlier.  I begged.  Finally they took her for the MRI.  There had not been another event.  This was a continuation of the earlier trauma to her brain. 

In the first two parts of A Nicole Story I mentioned I stayed in the hospital with her for seven or eight days.  This is not correct.  I think it was three nights followed by two nights that I went home to return to the hospital in the morning.  Those two nights were when I started my research online.  I reached out to stroke message boards and websites.  I started to gain an appreciation of what we were now up against, presuming she survived.  Now I had time, eight ten hours at a time to inform myself.  People replied to me, gave me the questions I needed to address.  I was becoming more informed, quickly.  Having my mom at home was a big blessing.  She was still healthy enough to provide comfort and council to me.  Without her I doubt we would have made it.  In the first few days she kept me calm, reminding me that we would get through it, somehow.  I was laser focused on Nicole.  I would stay that way for over two more years.  Sometime during that first night of her coma, when I was far away from her, I had that magic moment of clarity. Nothing other than Nicole mattered.  I loved her so completely.  I wanted nothing else out of life.  I would do anything to get her back.  I would never stop trying and fighting.  I was shocked at my reaction, I could not have predicted how I would respond, nobody could.  I was not going to be one of those bastards who desert a wounded partner because I simply was not made like that. I was quietly pleased with myself.  I had thought I was weak and self serving.  I had a horrible self image, then.  I learned many things about myself while being a caregiver for both my mom and Nicole.  The most important lesson for myself is that I am a good person, an unselfish person, a person who steps up and does not blink when things get hairy.  I was exactly who I wished I was.  I already was that person.  That was the day I made the tool I needed to break out of a depressive state that I had spent twenty years in.  Self love and a positive image of oneself was the tool I was missing.  It would be a couple of years before things sorted themselves out.  I was going to crash and burn before we got to the light but that was ok.  I kept my eyes on the prize and did not waver.  Nicole.  Make Nicole whole.

I remember the nurses coming by to stand with me and look at her.  She really never stopped smiling.  In a coma!  They loved her.  

Then, she woke up.  She was more empty that before.  A blank slate.  I got back into bed with her for a few more days.  She never let me go.  I really did become her voice.  She would hold my hand, I would say what I figured she might want to say and start talking.  A glance, a squeeze and I got pointed in a direction.  We kept going through the night, communicating.  It was excruciating and exhilarating at the same time but she was home!  Something that was Nicole was in there!  I could tell!  Yes, when we stood in front of the window looking at this beautiful panorama of the city and the river spreading out below us she had no idea what she was looking at, no idea about time itself.  So, we started.  We started the long, long journey of filling in the blanks, pulling her back as much as we could.  

I told her about how we would get the therapy she needed.  The trauma team talked to her about this as well.  She smiled back.  She could walk a little by then.  It was decided that she would have a shower.  I took her to the shower room.  I told her to go ahead, have a shower.  She looked at me confused, shrugged her shoulders.  "you don't know how" I asked.  She shook her head, no.  I turned the shower on, took her gown off and undressed myself and we got in.  I taught her how to have a shower.  This was to be the pattern for the next few years.  The first time she came up against anything she had to relearn it from scratch. Everything.  Try to imagine that.

There were tests and more tests.  More meetings with Dr. Lawrence and the trauma team, everyday.  We walked around the hospital, I talked and taught her things as they came up.  We laughed a lot.  She was amazing, positive and simple like always throughout all of this.  She never, ever wavered.

A week passed and then she got to go home for a weekend.  She was out of immediate danger now.   Friends had come to our house and set up our Christmas tree and Nicole's Christmas village.  Christmas and that village are important to Nicole as anyone who knows her will attest.  When she walked in the house she knew it was important to her.  She was so pleased.  She was still mute.  Being home stimulated her a lot.  Pieces were slowly falling together for her.  You could tell.   

Next up:  Hospital stay ends, Dr. Minuk finds out why

Thursday, 9 January 2014

A Nicole story part II

They brought Nicole to the ICU of the neurology wing of the MCU around lunch time.  The ICU was a large part of the floor, made up of a number of sections, each dealt with various types of brain traumas.  Nicole's room was a standard hospital ward room with four beds.  Her bed was by the window which would prove to be fortunate.  The day is a blur of activity and questions.  I was questioned by four different neurologists.  There were detailed interviews about Nicole's health, habits and character.  Her family history was investigated in detail.  I had to make calls to get some information.  The neurologists were relentless.  Nicole was constantly being tested by them.  CT scan, MRI, spinal tap, so many tests. Slowly I began to digest the facts.  Her stroke was severe.  A blood clot had traveled, most likely from one of her legs into her brain.  The blood clot burst veins and started to drown brain tissue.  The death of the brain cells was not instantaneous.  It would take a few days for the clot to complete it's destruction.  There was nothing to do but watch it happen. "My brain exploded" is how Nicole herself would put it years later.  This just was not one of those situations where drilling a hole would have helped.  Believe me, I asked.

By supper time Nicole was gone. Not just mute but empty.  She was not there.  She no longer responded to the doctors questions.  She was not hurting.  She was serene, always smiling.  The only encouraging thing was her refusal to let my hand go. She squeezed my hand as if her life depended on it.  The doctors were not encouraging.  There was a long way to go, many days, before we would know how she would do, but they were already getting me ready for the worst.  Terror was starting to set in.  The nurses seemed moved by my situation.  I talked incessantly about her, I think.  She lay there, beaming, oblivious.  10:00 PM.  I thought it best to go home, let her sleep.  I tried to leave but she would not let my hand go, she squeezed it so hard.  A few minutes later three nurses with tears in their eyes pulled the curtains around her bed.  They told me to get undressed and to get in the bed with Nicole. I did. I had tried to pry her fingers off.  Tears started to come from her eyes.  She sighed and fell asleep right away.  I spent the next week with her there. Over the next eight days I went home twice to get clothes and make sure mom was alright.  I stayed right there in the bed with her. my mind racing with a million questions, all of them overwhelming, all of them terrifying.  

I remember getting out of her bed in the middle of the night, the hospital was so quiet.  I went outside for a smoke.  I walked the halls thinking.  I return to her room and get back into bed.  She wakes from time to time, always holding me tightly.  She can't communicate at all with sound.  She never stops smiling.  

The chronology of the events blurs somewhat for the next week.  Somewhere near the end of the week Nicole falls into a coma that lasts for three days.  Before this I remember Dr. Lawrence and Dr. Minuk questioning me multiple times per day for the first few days. They want to determine why she had the stroke.  They cannot figure it out.  It should not have happened according to the available evidence.  She is in the lowest risk group.  What happened?  It took me over a month to understand why this was a major sticking point for the neurologists.  Eventually I realized that it was because experience told them that more strokes were in her future unless we could understand why it happened.  It was vital that we understood. 

On the second day the stroke trauma team was introduced to us, well, mostly me.  I wish I could remember the names of everybody, they are magnificent people all.  They told us that we were going to be there for a while, a few weeks at least.  There might be improvement in Nicole's situation, perhaps significant given some time.  Only time would tell.  Nicole was like a baby. When she was awake she tried to make sounds, she looked around her.  She clung to me, always, always smiling blissfully.  She was using me as a tool already, I just did not know it, yet.  Her eyes, darting about then looking at me, fingers pointing, eyes questioning.  There were more tests, more meetings with the neurologists.  More interviews with therapists.  So many questions about her life and her family history.  

Her family came to see her that day.  Her mom, brother and three sisters.  Nicole sat up in bed.  She did not know them.  She smiled the whole time, shrugged her shoulders with a puzzled look when she was told who each one was.  She did not know who I was either.  She knew I was hers to use as she saw fit, I think, and so she did, the best she could.  

I briefed her family.  One by one they went to the nurses desk looking for answers and explanations.  When they left I spoke to the head nurse.  That was the end of anyone other than me getting access to the medical team.  I was there 24/7.  Nobody was going to make any kind of decision without me.  I was now, for all intents and purposes, Nicole herself.  I would brief everyone, I would take counsel from everyone.  In the end though, Nicole would make the decisions, through me.  I still had not had that moment where I knew she might die, that was still a few days away.  That would be when I knew just how much I needed her to stay.  I had not yet had that moment of perfect clarity, but feeling her holding my hand, seeing her adoring, empty gaze at me, feeling her smile, I was hers.  

Next instalment of a Nicole story

Nicole falls down the rabbit hole (coma)

I am thoroughly enjoying writing this.  For 14 years I wanted to write about this.  Nicole missed so much of this story.  She has heard me tell it but now she will get to read it and keep it for posterity.  She will know her story through my eyes as best as I can remember it, as best as I can tell it.  Yes, Nicole can read.  Slow as molasses, but she gets the job done.  She gets everything done.  This Nicole person be my very own, live in, personal hero. 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Time for a Nicole story

For a while now I have wanted to write a post about Nicole. Specifically about aphasia.  Nicole had a devastating stroke on December 3, 1999.  I was with her when it happened, and I remained with her every step of the way, watching, learning and trying to help.  I learned more about the human brain and how they work than I could have imagined during the first weeks afterwards, and the ensuing years.  

This is written from memory and without consulting any references other than for spelling and such.  I want my lack of sophistication regarding brain anatomy and functions to be obvious.  This is how it was. The whole story will be long so I'll  break it up into a few posts.

On the fateful evening we were downstairs.  We wanted a bit of privacy.  My mother had been with us for about a year and things between Nicole and I were strained.  Neither of us were particularly happy.  It wasn't about my mom.  We were questioning and yearning, but not together.  We were growing apart and doing all the wrong things to fix the situation.  We were arguing the moment it happened, about what I do not remember.There was no lightning bolt strikes moment.  Strokes don't always happen like that.  The first thing I noticed wrong was that she was now speaking french to me.  Not so odd. French is her first language, but we did not speak french to each other very much at that time, a word or two here and there, generally for clarification purposes.  This time she stayed in french.  When I questioned her about it she replied that she was speaking french.  Odd, I thought.  This was about 9:00 PM.  Physically she seemed fine.  I was barely noticing something was wrong.  So, we talked in french.  It was no big deal.  I speak french.  About an hour in all of a sudden she refers to me as her brother Jacques.  She now is calling me Jacques.  This got my attention alright.  WTF?  

Why is she doing this?  She is pissed off at me.  Had enough.  This is some mean spirited game she is playing.  Rising confusion in me but I am still not thinking something has happened to her, not yet.  She is lucid other than calling me by the wrong name and speaking only french.  She brushes aside any suggestion that her behaviour is out of the ordinary.  She is aggressive about this and I am still deflected and distracted by her protestations.  It is now about 11:00 PM and I am instantly on high alert.  Something is drastically wrong.  She is no longer speaking french or english.  She is speaking an alien tongue.  For real.  She will not stop.  I start to get nervous, then afraid, then terrified.  I yell at her to stop.  Stop this minute!  Stop this right now!  We are still downstairs.  She does not know me anymore.  She moves upstairs, physically fine.  My mother has heard all the commotion now, she is up in bed.  She wants to know what the hell is going on.  I describe what has been happening to her.  Nicole is beside me.  Nicole tells my mom that I am crazy, nothing is wrong.  In french.  My mom is confused.  It is now about 11:30 PM.  I am in panic mode by now, although I am still hoping that she is fucking around with me, but that seems less and less likely to be the case.  That theory is taking a big nosedive, headed for a crash.  What the hell is happening to Nicole?

I pick up the phone and show it to Nicole.  I tell her that if she does not stop behaving this way I am going to call 911.  She is screaming at me about how I am out of my mind and to leave her alone.  I am her brother again.  I dial 9 and tell her that she better stop right now.  Nothing changes.  She is outraged.  I am blue in the face screaming back.  I dial 91 and tell her that the game is up.  She better get her shit together right fucking now.  She does not. I dial 911 at 11:57 PM.

First Tangent

11:57 PM not after 12:00.  Those three minutes kept us in the middle class, for real.  It took a lawyer but the insurance company agreed to pay out her disability insurance.  Insurance she had paid for.  She had quit her job that same day, December 3, 1999.  She was starting a new job on Monday December 6, 1999.  Our lawyer argued that the insurance was in force until midnight of that day. Jurisprudence was not clear in this regard in Canada.  I was running a business from home.  Nicole was the main money maker.  We came close to having No income with years of therapy ahead of us.  Three minutes.

Back to main story

The paramedics arrive quickly.  I greet them at the door and let them in.  Nicole is sitting on the couch calmly, looking great.  I explain events to the paramedics.  They ask Nicole a few questions.  She answers brilliantly while denying I am her husband.  She explains that I am her brother Jacques.  This goes on for a few minutes, maybe three.  The paramedics are trying to decide who to believe.  I bring out my mom.  Mom tells the paramedics that I am indeed her husband and not her brother.  A paramedic asks Nicole what date it is.  Nicole is somewhere lost in 1976.  The paramedics start to check her out, make measurements, make some phone calls.  A protesting Nicole is taken to the ambulance which heads for the Lakeshore General Hospital.  I follow in my car after talking to my mom and making sure she is going to be ok.

When I get to the hospital she is better.  Speaks english again.  Gets a bed in emergency.  Friend from bowling in the bed next to hers, with her husband nearby.  Little reunion happening, neither of the ladies are particularly ill.  Our friend had been spitting up blood but it seems to have been innocuous, from a bad bout of coughing. Nicole is speaking french again and seems to be falling into a daze.  Nothing happens for two hours.  I finally freak out totally and grab a nurse and read the riot act.  Woman here, middle aged, healthy as a horse, good living 100%, possible brain thing, do something fucking now or I shall haunt your fucking ass forever!  Stat!  NOW.  it works.  Doctor arrives, testing starts.  I am such a beginner I go home for some sleep.  It is about 4:00 AM.

Phone rings, 7:00 AM.  Nicole has been transferred to the Montreal General Hospital.  She had a stroke.  I talk to my mom, pack some stuff and drive calmly to the hospital.  I think I drove calmly.  I did not understand.  I had no idea how much our lives had changed, forever.

She is in emergency at the MGH.  Parts of what happens here during the next three hours or so are not clear, other parts are.  I am not sure exactly how Nicole was behaving, but she was alert.  She was also confused.  There had been diagnostic imaging done during the night at one or both of the hospitals.  What happened while I was not present I never learned.  A short while after I arrived one of the neurologists came to bedside and spoke with us.  He conducted  various reflex tests and administered other tests that investigate various neurological functions.  He informed us that Nicole had a stroke.  She could move all of her limbs but there was an obvious deficit on her right side.  She was not paralysed.  The right side just did not seem to work as well.  I was still not overly alarmed.  I had no idea.  

Another neurologist came to see her and administer more tests of the same flavour.  I asked him what had happened.  He told me left side stroke, significant broca center damage.  Somewhere during this time language and words left Nicole.  She smiled and smiled and faded away, blissfully.

Next Episode:  Welcome to the ICU, meet the stroke trauma team! 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Relaxed, in the moment, and, bored.  All of the urgency that characterized the last four months of the year for me has evaporated.  We are deep in the heart of winter.  I don't feel sick at rest, I can do physical activity like walking or going up and down the stairs.  I vaccum, do dishes, cook along with other things.  I recover my breath quickly when I over exert.  These are indeed the good old days.  

My resilience amazes me.  Remember the chopped up knight with the "it's only a flesh wound" from Monty Python?  That's me.  After a bout of shortness of breath I'm smiling at Nicole telling her I am good.  I mean it, too.  

Nicole thinks this get up and fight attitude comes from my sports background.  I prided myself in being able to take a licking and keep on ticking.  

I used the only reference that made sense to me, sports.  It is all a game.  Training camp was two sessions of pulmonary rehab.  I bought into it with heart and soul and I worked hard, both times.  How amazing for me that I did!  That's why I get so much of "wow, you don't seem so sick."  I really do manage every inhale and every exhale.  I know when and how to be breathing for any and all movements my body makes.  Control.  I have it.  This comes from years of coaches like Doug Anakin bending over a knocked down me exhorting "get up McCarten, move, shake it off, do your job." Times when everything hurt, when you were frozen, terrified and ready to give up, you heard that voice, and you believed, and you got up.  The game already won because you would not quit.  

Then there are the times between matches or tests.  You practice your skills, you work on your conditioning and your mental preparedness.  You don't look ahead too much.  

Today I will pick up pencils and papers and teach myself new things. 

Nicole brings me constant joy.  

I love the little cats more and more all the time.  

The tree is down today.  I reclaim my view from the big window.  The world just got a little bigger.