What Was That?

One of my ongoing health struggles thoughout the last year has been graft vs host disease (gvhd) in my lungs.  You may remember that simply put, gvhd is my new bone marrow system attacking my old cell system.  Since my transplant in 2009 I have had gvhd of the lungs, the skin and well, you name it.  For me, this year, gvhd has meant difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath and a terrible, persistent from-the-very-bottom-of-my-toes cough.  It was physically painful, embarrassing and it made people around me uncomfortable.  And there was nothing anyone could do to help me.  Water: didn’t help. Cough candies: didn’t help.  Rubbing my back: didn’t help.  Leaving the room: didn’t help (although probably eased the discomfort in the room).  I didn’t feel sick and aside from the medicine I took everyday, nothing helped.  There was no rhyme or reason as to when I would cough, how long I would cough or when I would stop.

On the night of July 19, 2013 I went to bed and as would most often happen I began to cough uncontrollably.  The few weeks earlier had been so muggy that I had been having a hard time breathing throughout the day.  In fact, I’m pretty sure healthy people were having a hard time breathing those weeks too.  Throughout this time, I was never in danger but I was so tired of not being able to take a deep breath of air.  I was even concerned about being outside for long periods of time and planned my days accordingly.

As the coughing that night began to subside I shared my frustration with Jeff, knowing that there was nothing that he could do.  When my breathing was finally under control so that I could concentrate on falling asleep I was keenly aware of just how shallow and laboured my breathing was that night.  In frustration I cried out to God and fell asleep.

That night I was woken up by a bad dream filled with mis-truth and the air around me felt heavy and dark.  In order to fall back asleep I began to pray.  Remember though, that it was the wee hours of the morning and I couldn’t really think of any sentences to pray.  Over and over I just quietly whispered “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!”  As my body began relax I began to pray “Holy! Holy! Holy! is the Lord God Almighty!  Who was and is and is to come.”  I repeated this over and over and felt that my small, desperate prayer was joining with the angels to become a large chorus of victory over this dream.

As I was praying, I remember, all of a sudden thinking (hearing? I don’t know…)  “What Was That?”  I took mental inventory of the house and everyone was asleep.  The street outside was quiet.  I continued to pray because I didn’t know what else to do.

And then in an instant, I yawned.  Not a big deal, right? Except that for the last really long time, the type of deep breath necessary for a yawn would usher in a fit of coughing.  As I began to feel a little more awake, I began to notice that my breathing was different, deeper, not laboured.  There was none of the usual heaviness or fear of taking too big a breath that would lead to an uncontrolled cough.

What had happened?  I don’t know but as I began to think back over the night I remember falling asleep in deep frustration, waking in fear from a dream, being very aware that my breathing was heavy and shallow and praying to Jesus.  As I took mental note of the last few minutes I remembered that “What Was That?” moment and realized that whatever that was (a sound, a feeling, a… I don’t know but I remember taking note…) it was then that my breathing changed.  That change continued throughout the night, throughout the next day and into the next number of weeks.

I was AMAZED and I continue to be AMAZED!

With each breath I would take there was this pattern that emerged:

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

With each breath it was immediate and automatic:

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

And for weeks, as I told this story to just about anyone who would listen:

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

I believe in that “What Was That?” moment that God healed my lungs of the terrible cough that had been so persistent throughout the year.

Fast Forward to Fall 2013:

Many of you know that over the last few weeks I have had pneumonia.  And with the pneumonia came a wheeze and a crackle with each breath it was the same: in, out, wheeze, crackle, in, out, wheeze, crackle…

I was telling the “What Was That?” story again to Dad and Maggie a little while ago, coughing my whole way though.  At the end of my story I said, even though I am coughing now, I believe in faith that once all this pneumonia goes away (we didn’t yet know it was pneumonia…) that my breathing will be restored to what it was this summer.  I didn’t know for sure and I certainly had all my fingers crossed, but in faith, I believed.  For with God, all things are possible.

It’s been a few weeks since I was officially told I had pneumonia.  I’ve been home from a 5 day stay in the hospital for about 3.5 weeks.  I have finished all my antibiotics and they have done their job. I continue to be closely followed by the bmt team at PMH.  I am healing slowly but surely.

The other day I began to reflect on this story, to take a good look at my breathing.  And I promise you, I continue to be AMAZED at how God continues to work out the details of my life.  I lay still on my bed, listening to each breath, watching the rise and fall of my lungs.  Each breath was deep.  Each breath was full.  There was no heaviness.  There was no wheeze. There was no crackle.

The only sound to be heard in the room was:

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

Deep Breath. “Thank You Jesus!”

With joy,  Heather

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