I’ll never forget that day. It was Saturday, September 15, when I was able to breathe again (10 days ago as I write this.) As the diagnosis of my cancer proceeded my breathing problems became increasingly worse. Not being able to breath had almost become a part of me, even it was a part I didn’t like. In this post I will share my experience of being able to take a full breath of air once again.
As I have noted many times writing about the diagnosis phase of my cancer experience, I have been having problems breathing for a number of months. It got so bad that I looked forward to having a port surgery performed just so I could get a break from the breathing problems. A lymph node in my neck was pushing against my windpipe. That restricted the amount of air I could breath. It got so bad at the end that even getting up from a chair or taking a couple of steps would leave me breathless.
On Tuesday and Wednesday of that week I had my chemo treatment. Then for two days I basically slept my days away. So on Saturday when I woke up in the morning I was expecting to just lay around all day. I was actually feeling pretty good that morning and decided to go out to my pickup truck to grab something out of it. As I opened the pickup door I had to stop and think about what had just happened. I had walked all the way to pickup truck from the house without my walking stick and without stopping to catch my breath. My pickup was at least a hundred feet away from the house on that day. I was so excited that I decided to keep walking to make sure I hadn’t somehow tricked myself (I know that might not make sense, but that was the thought I had).
I spent the next half hour walking all over. My wife and I have two quite large gardens. I walked out to those gardens and walked around them several times. I walked to a neighbor’s house and checked out the progress of construction being done on his house. I walked down our very long driveway to check the mail. I kept finding excuses to walk around and would have jumped for joy if I could have.
After all that walking I was starting to get a bit tired, but that tiredness seemed to come from my chemo recovery and not from breathing problems. Actually, I think I almost hyperventilated from trying to see just how fast and long I could take breaths of air. It was a good day.
The thought occurred to me that my lymph nodes must have gotten smaller. It was then I touched the very large lump on my neck. Or rather I went to touch the very large lump on my neck, but it was gone. Between my neck, armpits and groin there were at least seven lymph nodes I had been able to feel previously. All of them appeared to be gone now. I knew the cancer was still in me, I had only one chemo treatment so far after all. But I now felt energized by being able to breathe and having the lymph nodes pushed down to a normal size.
Later that day I did some very light yard work. I still had to be careful as I can’t be in the sun too long and I would still get tired very quickly. But for the first time in months I felt halfway normal again. Nobody was going to take that from me. Not even my well-intended (and correct) wife telling me not to overdo it. In the end I probably did overdo the activity that day because I was very tired again for all of Sunday. It was worth it though.
As I end this post I can’t help but be thankful for being able to breathe again. I vaguely remember someone once saying the secret of life is to keep breathing. At this point I really can’t disagree with that statement.
I also couldn’t get the Pink Floyd song Breathe out of my head. In particular I couldn’t stop thinking of the first two lines:
Breathe, breathe in the air
Don’t be afraid to care