If there is one thing I have learned from life, it is that it is filled with joy and happiness, but often frought by sadness and stress. The key to balancing the good with the bad is to know you can never really control any of it – you must learn to accept and embrace or enjoy and celebrate, and then, move on.
I am not immune to the bad, but I am blessed with the good. I have a wonderful husband – who shows me daily that he loves me even though I can make him crazy. I am surrounded by amazing family and friends who bring me joy, love and laughter. My greenhouse brings me together with warm, friendly people who share my passion for plants.
But I have been dealt some setbacks. The last few years in the news business were filled with stress and emotional drain. I retired in 2020 only to deal with a pandemic and my husband’s unexpected small stroke. March 2020 was filled with making sure Jeff was OK and starting his at-home speech therapy as we endured panademic lock-ins.
When his health rebounded (and it did rebound after several months) and new vaccines gave us a weapon against COVID, I was ready to embrace retirement in 2021 with a new vigor.
Then I had brain surgery. Jeez – give a girl a break!
2022 introduced a happy, healthy year and I was excited to take on the projects long put on hold while I worked full-time. I could see the change! My gardens became recognizable, my greenhouse was more organized and I even cleaned out some of my junk in the house.
Summer was filled with warm weather, blooming flowers and friendly faces. I felt like a heavy veil had been lifted off my being. “This is what retirement feels like!” I told myself, with a smile of gratitude.
It all changed in late August, when I got COVID. Besides being really pissed that I contracted the virus (despite some very intense efforts to stay safe), I felt the ultimate guilt that I had exposed others. While I will never know where I became infected, I know that at least four people got it from me. Hopefully, they avoided passing it on after I let them know immediately after testing positive that they had been exposed.
COVID has turned out to be the hiccup in my 2022. I took Paxlovid, an anti-viral medication, and it allowed me to feel better in less than 24 hours. I was almost myself a week later and attacked household chores and greenhouse tasks with a vengeance.
A day later, I was sick again. It was worse than the first go-round. Jeff had come down with COVID four days after my initial infection and toughed it out for a week without anti-virals. It was helpful that he was better, because I was worse. I eventually felt a little better, but as many who have had COVID know, it takes a long time to feel normal.
By mid-September, I was coughing incessantly and short of breath when I talked. Those of you who know me, know I live to talk! It became obvious that I was still dealing with the damage this virus caused, but I was confident it would eventually get better.
By Sept. 30, I was in the ER, where they ruled out all the scary stuff like heart failure, pneumonia, blood clots – and sent me home with cough pills and steroids. The steroids helped a little, but the cough and shortness of breath came back. Even cough medicine with codeine brought little relief.
I tried to stay home and rest, but resting is for people who can actually lay down and close their eyes without coughing until they break a rib. I went from cough drops to butterscotch candies, I drank gallons of water or warm drinks. I tried not to talk and I tried not to cough.
I got really scared when I started getting reports from my CPAP unit (yes, I have sleep apnea) that I was stopping breathing 10-15 times each hour. I knew I wasn’t sleeping well, I was often ripping the CPAP off in the middle of the night because I was coughing so hard.
My doctor prescribed a corticosteroid inhaler three weeks ago and set up a visit with a pulmonologist. The inhaler worked immediately, and each day, I cough less and breathe better. All my lab tests, X-rays, CT scans and pulmonary function tests have shown no permanent damage, for which I am grateful. COVID found its way to my lungs and kicked asthma into high gear. It may be months until I stop having to use my inhaler once or twice a day.
It was scary. I didn’t want to be sick this year and I didn’t want to be scared. I am done with being the person that is “sick” and people are worried about. I am the caregiver, the doer, the overachieving worker, the baker, the cook, the artist.
I don’t want to be the sick person.
I am heading in the direction of good health. I see it on the horizon every day. I embrace it when I am able to do the things I want to do and to do them without coughing or shortness of breath.
But as I recover, I think of all those who are hit with serious illnesses or injury who never fully recover. And I accept that, as we all grow older, I may encounter something I will struggle to overcome. We all see the changes in our bodies as we age; some we fight with a vengeance – others, we grudgingly allow to become part of our lives.
There is the balance we must seek – and we count on those who love us and care for us to help us decide when to fight and when to yield. We may not agree, and we still hold on to that right, but time often helps us acquiesce.
Last week, I did what I loved to do. I planted perennials, I moved things inside for the winter, I played with plants and created greenhouse beauty. I cooked, baked and cleaned. I smiled a lot and even danced to some music in my greenhouse.
Yesterday, I took what I hope will be my last COVID-related test for a long time and the results were encouraging. I am thankful for understanding physicians (especially my primary care doctor!) kind technicians and caring nurses. They have made all of our health battles so much easier.
Today, the sun is starting to melt a little of the light snow that fell last night. A cold day outside, but a warm day inside and in my heart.
I am ready for the balance to lean toward the happy side.