Part III ended with “..After I made it past 21, I always thought I’d live to be 80. Not 79 or 81. 80. I’m 58.”
COPD. It’s an odd duck of a disease. It gradually, very gradually sneaks up on you. You notice you’re not walking as fast, but hey, everybody has days where the desire to stroll vs. get that cardiac heart rate up kind of walk, don’t they? Sure they do. Then, for me, one morning there was not enough air. Just like that. Freaked me out. I didn’t know what to make of it. I was a bit late to work that day, as I recall. Maybe not. But when I got there and told them what had happened, they said, “Get thee to a doctor, Hunt. NOW.”
So, I did and my favorite GP, Dr. Smith, did his tests and said gently, “Huntie (he may have addressed me as Ms. HuntMode, he’s old-fashioned that way), you have a serious case of COPD.” And, he filled me in on what that means and set me up with an appointment with a Pulmonologist.
Dr. Smith advised me that I might want to take the rest of the day off. “Really?” I asked, a bit puzzled and dismayed.
He was escorting me to the front desk – unusual that – and he gently took my arm to help me get there. Dr. Smith has a quiet voice and a gentle, seen-it-all manner. Also, he looks exactly like Santa Claus. He gazed at me over his glasses and softly said, “Huntie, you couldn’t breathe this morning and you’re still in difficulty. Why don’t you go home and put your feet up for a bit.”
I didn’t. I was too scared to go home and have to think about it. I went back to work and finished the day in the 24/7 Emergency Operations Room where I served as a duty officer, taking calls involving crisis management for the State of Washington. That was a temporary job that lasted for two years. I have now been unemployed for about 20 months. Leaving the search for employment aside, this time off has given me time to write, to think, to rest. To rest. Something I badly needed when the job ended.
As to the COPD, you get flare ups that come out of nowhere, similar to that first day, so it is always hard to know whether you’ll make an appointment, keep a date, be able to join in a walk with a pack of greyhounds.
I was truly mortified to find I could not keep up with them that day we walked around the lake. I made it about less than halfway, knowing I was going to have to admit I had to stop and rest. Ella was having a grand time being with a pack.
I knew I was going to have to admit it about a 1/4 of the way around but I was too proud to do it. I pushed until I couldn’t fake it anymore. Feeling utterly humiliated, I surrendered Ella’s leash and said I would catch up with them or meet them back at the car. They were sweet and said, “Are you sure?” Yes. Please go away, so I don’t have to struggle to keep up.
It isn’t just the lack of air. It is this extraordinary exhaustion that sweeps your entire body, where putting one foot in front of another is a major effort. You think that benches placed here and there are a gift from God. I made my way back that day, receiving calls from them as to how I was doing, would I be much longer? Longest walk of my life that day.