Unchanged

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About a week ago, Jaime published a post entitled Never Give In. He was excited for me because I’d just accomplished my goal of running two miles in 25 minutes.  He called me resilient.  He called me tenacious. High praise, indeed.

A week out I’m feeling anything but resilient and tenacious.  I guess you could say I’ve been knocked down. I had a routine pulmonary appointment several days ago and I was hoping to see my FEV1 rise up.  It had fallen to 32 during a severe, extended illness this past winter, but was coming back up and had landed at 42 at my appointment two months ago.  I have learned to moderate my expectations because my FEV1 scores don’t move easily, not in the right direction, anyway. The running goals I set were part of my endeavor to regain lung function as I continued to heal from the illnesses of this past winter. I wasn’t expecting a giant gain but was hoping for a few positive points to show me I’d been successful.

I ended up getting 42 again. My score was unchanged. There was zero improvement. At first I talked myself into feeling okay about it. I know the number is less important than how I’m feeling, and I’ve been healthy and strong this summer. But sure enough, as the hours passed, discouragement settled in.  I worked hard. Really hard. I wanted a better score.

My doctor was surprised that I hadn’t made any gains as well, especially since everything else during the exam looked great. He decided to order an echocardiogram to see how my heart is doing. Because of how well I am functioning, he didn’t expect to see anything concerning. A positive result would confirm our suspicion that I’m healthier than my FEV1 would indicate. I thought for certain things would look good.

But we were both wrong. Although my heart muscle is performing well, the pulmonary artery which supplies blood to the lungs was under greater pressure than either of us expected. This indicates that my heart is working extra hard to push blood through the arteries in my lungs, most likely because those arteries have narrowed or are blocked in some way. This negative report was incredibly disappointing. Knocked down.

I gave my treadmill a long, hard stare before I got on it the other day. There was a large part of me that wished to wallow in self-pity, take a few weeks off, cry some crocodile tears over the fact that my efforts didn’t pay off in the way I wanted them to. But that would be giving in. My heart definitely wasn’t in it, but I mounted the beast and banged out those two miles. I did it again two days later. I have to do what I can. I have to try.

I feel insecure right now. A FEV1 score at the lower end of the moderate obstructive range…a pulmonary artery under too much pressure. These are not comforting thoughts. These test results aren’t written in stone…it is still possible for my lung function to rise and the pressure in the pulmonary artery to subside. But there is nothing additional that I can do to facilitate these changes.

With that in mind, I must return to the true source of my hope. It is not in myself or my efforts. It is not in my doctor’s expertise. It is not in my therapies, my treatments, or in my ability to avoid germs. It is the hope I have that my life is held in the loving hands of my Savior, and that He has a purpose and a plan for me.

Several verses surfaced in my mind after I got that disappointing call from my doctor.  One was 2 Chronicles 16:9 which says:

The eyes of the Lord run to and fro across the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.

Another was from 2 Timothy 1 (verse 7):

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.

Another was Isaiah 54:10-11:

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, says the Lord who has mercy on you. Oh you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with fair colors, and lay your foundations with sapphires.

Sapphires always remind me of my sister Sheri.  She was born and died in the month of September. The sapphire was her birth stone–both the start of her life on earth and the start of her new life in heaven. Her existence was marked by struggle but she never shrank back from the challenges that came her way. The result was a life and legacy full of meaning and beauty. A sapphire is a fitting stone for her. Along with their stunning beauty, sapphires are incredibly strong. The only stone harder than a sapphire is a diamond which the hardest mineral on earth.

It’s helpful to have Sheri’s example when I hit these bumps in the road. She was sapphire-strong because she accepted the strength God gave her and I, too, can take hold of that strength. I can claim it as my own even when I feel angry and defeated–even on the days when I’d like nothing better than to throw in the towel and let someone else be resilient and tenacious. I can hold fast to my faith and to the promises in God’s word–promises of peace, comfort, kindness, and love. He has shown himself strong on my behalf over and over. I don’t know what the future holds and whether God will restore health to my heart and my lungs. They may remain unchanged. But the promises of God are unwavering and ever-present.

They, too, are unchanged.

Four Years Old

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It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since my last birthday post for Lucas. But sure enough, here we are, one year later, and my baby is now four years old. It was fun to go back to read what I wrote about him last year–some things have changed and some things are the same. He still loves the color orange, he still loves snuggles, and he still has strong emotions. But he no longer pays much attention to pick up trucks, he is less attached to his routines, and I don’t remember the last time we sang the ABC song (although I remember the last 500 times we sang Old MacDonald). He’s still the same sweet and exuberant little boy and we are thankful for him every single day. Here are some special things about Lucas at age four:

  • Lucas sings a lot! Many times you can recognize a tune but he often changes the lyrics to suit his needs. He sings while he plays, he sings on the potty, he sings in the tub, he sings in the car, he sings at the dinner table…you get the idea.
A lively rendition of Old MacDonald in the car

A lively rendition of Old MacDonald in the car.

  • His language cracks us up on a regular basis.  He uses some rather adult phrases such as, “Tell me about it!” or “Who knew!” or “That’s ridiculous!” He likes to be funny and the other day, he asked me, “What are we doing now, Boss?”  He is pretty creative when it comes to names.  He’ll see a picture of a child and ask, “What is her name?”  I might guess “Annie” or “Laura” and he’ll say, “No, that’s Bamale.”  He has a pet mouse he named “Shengali-Shengala” and a dinosaur he named “Urna” with a hard accent on the “Urn”, like someone just punched you in the stomach.
  • Lucas currently has two favorite bedtime books, both written by Tony Mitton (Down by the Cool of the Pool and Dinosaurumpus).  He can recite them both and corrects me if I get even one word wrong (“sound Mommy, not noise!”)
Reading "Dinosaurumpus" before bed.

Reading “Dinosaurumpus” before bed.

  • His favorite thing in the world is still running and chasing. I gave up the no-running-in-the-house rule long, long ago.  It was a futile fight. I’m still holding my ground on the no-screaming-in-the-house rule but it gets broken regularly when chasing reaches a certain level of glee that can’t be contained.
  • Lucas loves imaginary play. He acts out stories and songs from TV shows and books. He mixes and matches the plots. If he doesn’t have the right toy or character he happily substitutes something he does have.  (No Mommy, that’s not Daniel Tiger, that’s Rapunzel!)
Don't have the right costume?  No problem!  I'll wear a grocery bag.

Don’t have the right costume? No problem! I’ll wear a grocery bag.

  • Lucas seems to prefer things (relatively) neat and organized. Sometimes I’ll hear a gasp and run over to him to find out what’s wrong. “We forgot to put away the crayons!”  The other day I was on the phone and when I got off I found him sweeping up little crumbs of play doh that had hardened on the floor.  I can’t say I mind these tendencies. 😉
Sweeping up the play doh crumbs

Sweeping up the play doh crumbs.

  • Lucas loves animals and his favorite animals are cats. He loves cheetahs and leopards and lions and tigers, but his absolute favorite is a cat that roams our neighborhood named Ringo. He has two stuffed cats, each named Ringo and a small plastic cat named Ringo. He frequently makes cats out of play doh and calls them Ringo, and any unnamed cat in a book is automatically dubbed…you guessed it!  Ringo!
Lucas hanging out with the original Ringo Cat.

Lucas hanging out with the original Ringo Cat.

  • Lucas hates loud noises.  He covers his ears whenever we enter a public restroom in case the toilets are loud or (heaven forbid) there are hand dryers. He doesn’t like the blender or the hair dryer or the coffee bean grinder and protests and runs away every time I turn on my nebulizer to do my breathing treatments (“It’s too loud, Mommy!”) The desire to be near me wins out most of the the time, though, and he’ll usually find his way back and into my lap.

Breathing Treatment snuggles

Putting up with the noise for a breathing treatment snuggle.

Lucas seems so much older to me at four than he did at three–he’s using the potty independently, sleeping alone all night in his bed, eating a variety of foods after years of only wanting baby food. He’s going off to preschool, happily, twice a week and tells me he usually doesn’t miss me. (“I’m really brave, Mommy.”)  He doesn’t want to be called cute anymore.  (“I’m not cute, I’m big!“) He is big. And cute. And we love him so very much.

Happy birthday Lucas Gabriel!

Our Lucas.

Our Lucas.

Never Give In

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Well, she did it.

A couple of months ago Betsy re-initiated her “Operation Lace Up”. Her goal then was to get back to a 12.5 minute mile pace for 2 miles. Ok, that kind of time isn’t going to break any Olympic records but you try running with a progressive lung disease and asthma! Last summer she broke 25 minutes and kept that pace up through the fall and winter until she got sick. But then she was sidelined for about 5 months and had to start from zero.

It’s not the first time that she’s faced a major setback. It probably won’t be the last. In the spring of 2008, Betsy ran a 5K and she killed it. That race was itself the culmination of a long recovery process, following a serious bout with pneumonia and influenza in 2007. Unfortunately, just over a year after that race Betsy was in the ER awaiting emergency surgery; the result of a mysterious abdominal infection. I remember a discussion before Betsy got back on the treadmill for the first time after her operation, wondering aloud if she could do it again.

By now you will, of course, know that Betsy is resilient. And tenacious. But it’s still hard. There’s an annoyingly catchy song from the late 90s, Tubthumping by Chumbawamba. You know, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down”. I remember downloading it on to her iPod just to try and make her smile before that first run but it kind of turned into a rallying cry. In my estimation, she’s had to “get up again” more times than she deserves. But each time she finds the will to do it.

There have been ups and downs this summer. Before her last breathing test she ran two miles in 27.5 minutes and continued to make steady progress. We went to the gym together a couple times while on vacation last month and ran side by side on some very state of the art treadmills. That week alone she shaved 30 seconds off of her time and got under 26 minutes. But with the higher temperatures and humidity that go along with the dog days of summer, she has had some slower runs more recently and some runs that just didn’t feel very good. By Monday though she was edging closer to 25 minutes and was bound and determined to give it one final push today.

I was out running some errands on my lunch break and happened to wander into a Dick’s Sporting Goods. The first display when I walked into the store was a vast selection of Nike women’s running gear:

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Inspiration by Nike.

I’m pretty sure Nike swiped that line from the inimitable Winston Churchill’s famous 1941 speech given at the Harrow School in London.

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Wise words indeed.

I had just gotten my phone out to text Betsy my great find and to ask what size she wanted when she sent me a message with the following picture attached:

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24:52!!!!!!!!!!!

Apart from the time, she even said that she felt surprisingly good during the run. I was over the moon! She deserved a run like this. I knew she could do it and I couldn’t have been more proud of her. I snatched the tank top off the rack and was heading toward the checkout but Betsy sent a follow up text instructing me NOT to buy it without a coupon. Tenacious and frugal. I love her! 🙂

I would say mission accomplished but knowing Betsy, she will set another goal for herself that will be obliterated in due course. And while I’m hopeful that there won’t be any new setbacks anytime soon, I know that regardless, Betsy won’t ever give in. If she get’s knocked down, she’ll get up again.

You’re never gonna keep her down!

P.S. Sorry if that song is stuck in your head for the rest of the day!