You know how Facebook posts your memories from a year ago, three years ago and five years ago? Well this morning my blog post from a year ago popped up to tell me what had preoccupied me a year ago. The title of the blog? “A Frightening Diagnosis.” I’d just been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, formerly known as “emphysema.”
Looking back, I remember how angry I was. It wasn’t fair. I’d stopped smoking 50 years before the diagnosis and since that time I’d been a yoga practitioner and, for many years, a long distance runner. You get the picture. I took good care of my body. Fitness was important to me.
I searched for reasons. Maybe it was caused by all the stress I’d been under in 2015 and 2016. After all, I’d packed up the house I’d lived in for 43 years and moved to a new city. Then I’d left my marriage of almost 55 years to live alone with Sammy the Poodle in a two-bedroom apartment. I’d never lived alone. Freedom brought with it all the stressors of a broken relationship and the need to manage life’s tasks alone.
A year ago on Facebook I wrote about the “chest cold that refused to leave my tired lungs.” It was summertime, not the cough and cold season. What was going on? Then came what I referred to as “shock and horror” about the “frightening diagnosis.”
Friends tried to comfort me by pointing out that, after all, if you live long enough, you’re bound to get some sort of illness. COPD wasn’t so bad. Lots of people have it and live normal lives. My response? That may be true for other people, but not for ME. I’m healthy. I work out. I do yoga. I eat right. I don’t get sick.
Winter came and things got worse. It turns out that COPD is exacerbated by cold weather. I was miserable. Then, one bright, beautiful winter day in the dog park, my face got very cold. I’d forgotten I had cold urticaria, an allergy to cold that causes my body’s histamine to swell all the tissues in my body. Recent winters I’d avoided the face-swelling, sick-to-my-stomach feeling of this allergic reaction to cold. I’d almost forgotten I had the condition. Now I had both cold urticaria and COPD.
I was feeling sorry for myself. My meditation practice taunted me. DON’T WISH THINGS TO BE DIFFERENT. That was a basic teaching. Under the circumstances, it was hard to watch life unfold without judging it. Nevertheless, I kept repeating don’t wish it to be different, over and over to myself.
In time, I came to the conclusion that I needed to leave Canada for the winter months. I’d become a snowbird. Yes, I could do that. I’d find a warm winter home for Sammy the Poodle and me and just avoid cold weather.
Fast forward to now, the summer of 2017, exactly a year after I was mourning the loss of my healthy body. How am I now? It’s summer and I’m pretty healthy. I rarely think about COPD, but I do think a lot about my solution to the problem. I’ve arranged to rent a house in the desert, a location that’s perfect for my health.
Do I wish things to be different? No way! I couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out. Imagine! If I hadn’t been diagnosed with COPD I wouldn’t be going off to a warm desert for five cold months.
Here’s the plan. Sammy and I will spend the winter in Arizona. I’ve even rented a house there. I’m excited about this new chapter in my life. Do I wish things to be different? No way! If it weren’t for my lung condition I’d be stuck here in the ice and snow.