It ain’t me.
A while back, I decided, erroneously, that I wasn’t going to broach this topic. A recent visit with a cardiologist has really been bothering me, though. It wasn’t that the specifics of the consultation prompted a seemingly sympathetic response on their part, it was that I couldn’t do anything to head it off, so to speak.
They were simply absorbed in their own feelings; it didn’t have anything to do with me. I’m used to that, too, but not in anyone I expect to be acclimatized to the reaction the same as myself. I’ve fumed for a couple of days, but then it finally dawned on me, I deal with this now or I deal with it later, but I’m really not going to feel like it if I avoid it like I wanted to.
So you may want to quit reading here.
The short and blunt version: my life expectancy at this stage is somewhere between 2 1/2-5 years. Given the speed at which the disease has progressed and the fact that there is nothing that can be done to treat it beyond what’s already been done, the reality is probably going to trend toward a more conservative figure.
The only part of this that bothers me is the idea of it upsetting anyone. I won’t blame anyone for how they react or if they don’t react or whatever — posting this here, where almost no one will see it, is actually kind of chickenshit, but this is more something I just need to vent. Again, if I’m not exactly tickled about this, I’m certainly comfortable with the idea.
And it’s a hell of a lot better than it was a short time ago, when I figured it was down to months.
When I first found out for certain I had COPD, I just figured it was something you lived with. Then I started reading that it drastically reduced your life expectancy; some estimates put it at ten years from the time of diagnosis. But back before summer kicked in, when I was still coming down with pneumonia every other week, I got very keen on finding out what the specifics were; I did not want to find myself knocked on my ass and suddenly unable to do anything but be sick and helpless for months.
Without a starting point of reference, though, all I could learn about the subject was remarkably vague, and no one was actually telling me anything. “Stop smoking drugs” was both fundamentally unhelpful and demonstrated no comprehension of the subject whatsoever (I can’t even handle UNscented SOAP, although to be specific, a vaporizer delivers THC through heated water vapor, which has no impact on tissue). I eventually got hold of my medical records, though, and found the magic number:
This was, to me, the most salient product of the lung function tests I had done. To oversimplify, my lungs only filter about a quarter of the CO2 out of my blood that they would if I didn’t have COPD. It should have taken roughly ten years to get to this point; it’s been two, maybe slightly more.
There are some good studies to show a correlation between COPD and smoking marijuana and tobacco; there is none for marijuana alone (although this will produce the inflammation that causes the problem, hence the vaporizer). Yet in the same breath (hee!), the physical damage has all been in the last two years; I’ve been speculating on this forever, but I was good to validate the suspicion. To give one some indication of the progression, when I went in for my ECG last week, the specialist basically had to shove my left lung out of the way to get an ultrasound of my heart; the bulae (scar tissue) obscured it, otherwise and there was some question as to whether the result would even be usable.
So it’s down to “how do I hold up this winter”?
There’s a depiction in a Harlan Ellison short story whose title eludes me of an end-of-the-world scenario, in which a man in a grocery store becomes aware of what’s happening and informs the cashier that he had prepared in advance for the possibility. “I’d like to finish paying for my purchases, please.” This summarizes my reaction quite nicely. I want to outlive Tobias, as I fear that no one else would quite appreciate him as I do; I probably won’t.
But that’s how it is; you get settled into the action reel and the power goes out before the conclusion. Knowing this beforehand is seemingly maddening unless examined, since after the fact, there is no conclusion, no story, no observer to be aware that it was left un-concluded.
And frankly, it’s equally maddening to have devoted so much time to experiencing this reality from the other side of the equation and, having at last found myself on the opposite side, compelled to avoid talking about it for fear of upsetting anyone.
In someone else, this might also come across as attention seeking behavior; however this couldn’t be further from the truth, here. In my own self-estimate, to sit on this sort of thing is antithetical to the character I’ve established for myself. I don’t hide anything, I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I’ve had my fair share of people who have thanked me for how I approach the whole issue who were actually going through the same experience themselves. I’ve certainly never forced it on anyone, but in this instance, well? This is actually about me.
Unless I’m hit by the proverbial bus, at some point, I’ll simply stop posting. I finally hammered out the worst of it with everyone save a couple relatives, and got them to back off making “everything will be fine” type noises. Hopefully no one will mistakenly come looking for me.
Honestly, I’d prefer not to be mentioned at all, but tasteless jokes are preferred. I certainly won’t hear any of them, but honestly, I don’t like the idea of being missed and don’t expect to be in a broad sense. There are nine billion people in the world and I wouldn’t even hazard a guess how many I am identical to in my entirety, let alone any single aspect.
My single, greatest priority is to pull this off with as much dignity as I’m capable of. So far? So good. Enough said.