THE PASSENGER’s LOG
STAR DATE CINCO DEMAYO 2021
VOYAGE of the STAR SHIP
GENESIS two seven
Today was the first visit back to the pulmonologist, Dr. N. I’m anxious to report what he has to say and I’ll get to that. First, a musical number. No, I’m not going to sing, but I want to throw you a thought or two and it begins with the Star Spangled Banner. Our National Anthem was written by Francis Scott Key as he watched a 25-hour bombardment on Ft. McHenry. He was aboard a British war ship and he and the British sailors were wondering if the Stars and Stripes would still be flying at the end of such a barrage. ‘Oh say can you see…?’ Okay, why was he on a British war ship to begin with? The answer is that he had gone on board to try to negotiate the release of a civilian being held by the British. When the bombardment began, Key was not allowed to leave the ship. – And that has what to do with the VOYAGE? Inquiring minds want to fish… or something like that! So, what’s the point?
The Passenger is on board the Star ShipGenesis two seven. That is important. It is a Star Ship. Even though this is titled a ‘voyage’ it doesn’t mean it is a pleasure cruise. In the last few days, I was reminded. in no-uncertain-terms,The Passenger is not travelling on board a Mediterranean cruise liner with lounge chairs around the pool. Instead, on the Star Ship, nurses had stethoscopes draped around their necks, phyisicians on board had tired, bleary eyes and reading glasses sitting low on their noses. All were weary and in need of a quiet voyage. The point is, the two seven is a battleship, a ship from the decks of which wars are engaged and skirmishes won. Why didn’t The Passenger think on this more carefully in those first weeks? No real need to answer that now because the concept of a battle being engaged is fully ensconced in The Passenger’s psyche.
The battle that began so unexpectedly and fought so openly came from a very unlikely place. One would expect battles against bacteria or viruses but this first battle was internal. Do you recall in one of the initial posts, The Passenger mentioned Job about his asking ‘Why me?’ when the correct question is ‘Why not me?’ The Passenger understands this in his head, but does he have it in his heart? Let me tell you why I ask that.
This past Saturday, I was perusing the gun cabinets at a prominent local gun and sporting goods store, a place where all troubles cease and Nirvana can be reached… Okay, that isn’t true at all, but stick with me here! While there, I overheard a clerk talking to two customers, a man and a woman. The male customer and the salesman apparently shared the same birthday and that was the topic. The couple was trying to guess the salesman’s age. They guessed the salesman to be in his 50’s and the salesman looked anywhere from 48 to 58. It turns out, he is 77. WOW! Right? He said, ‘I feel good, never really had a sick day in my life.’ Now, let me assure you, I am, after retrospect, extremely happy for him. At that moment, however… a battle raged up inside of me I was not expecting. All of a sudden I had to get out of sight of him. I was jealous, and I mean really, deep down to the core burning jealousy. Where did that come from? We know where.
A bitter attitude was replaced with a better attitude as I reflected on some children I met on that next Sunday at my granddaughter’s soccer game. I had my dog, Gunner, with me and they wanted to pet him. I told them about Gunner being a retired service dog and how he used to visit children in the hospital. I told them stories of the brave kids we met. That was my first real wake-up call. Reminiscing about what those kids were battling gave me cause for introspection. On Monday, God provided more for me to ruminate on. An email from a dear friend had arrived in response to a letter I had written him a week or more ago. A story of him in a foreign country visiting a leprosy area was all I needed to be reminded again of the struggles others face that are so overwhelming compared to mine. ‘Why me?’ Indeed! How seemingly trite. I was appalled at my own egocentric focus.
But wait a minute… Even though, it seems trite to think those kinds of thoughts – that kind of battle is very real. It can destroy an unprepared combatant and hopefully next time I will be on guard for it. There is still, though, another side to this coin. I prayed early on in this that God would teach me what He wanted me to learn and He took me seriously!
The day before the visit with Dr. N, I received word on one of my dearest shipmates. You will recall, I think, that all of you who are joining us here and holding this voyage up in prayer are crewmates and I thank God for each and every one of you. Your service is voluntary and I appreciate that all the more. My shipmates are those who are stuck on this voyage with me because they are family. It was not their choice to be here but there is no way you are going to get them off this ship. They have decided this is where they must be, even without a choice.
One of my dearest shipmates receives word that she must battle a challenge of her own. She has a long-term medical issue, it seems, that is going to not be fun to have. It is a controllable thing and, over time, she will learn to deal with it but it doesn’t mean she has to like it and I don’t have to like the idea that she has to have it either! That said, I run through my mind the the things I feared would be her diagnosis and, to be honest, this one was a relief. That doesn’t mean it’s good, it just means it’s not as bad as it could have been. Will that make it easier for her to deal with? I hope so, but not necessarily. I mean, when I learned what my lung disease was, I was so very thankful it wasn’t cancer. Does that mean I like it any more than I would if it were cancer? I honestly don’t know. I think so, because I think there are real options for me in the future when things get really bad, options I probably wouldn’t have if I had cancer. To all my crewmates and shipmates who have dealt with or are dealing with cancer, I’m not saying, ‘Wow, I’m glad I’m not like you!’ At least I don’t think I’m saying that. I am being brutally honest and just letting you know, as The Passenger on this particular voyage, I’m just glad God is God because this is all way too much for me to process sometimes. There will be times when I just really don’t want to deal with it. My shipmate will have times when she will just really not wat to deal with it. Because what we have isn’t as bad as what someone else has doesn’t make our not wanting to deal with it any less real. It just makes us human. Are we still able to count our blessings every single day? Absolutely!
The Voyage Starship Genesis two seven came in from orbit for the long awaited visit with Dr. N. It wasn’t really that long a wait since my last doctor’s visit, but it seemed long. This visit was a tough one for me to prepare for… I could not wait to get there but did not want to go. It was like waiting for Doc’s first phone call weeks ago. I wanted to know but I didn’t want to answer the phone. I couldn’t imagine, going in, that there was really anything new he was going to tell me. I assumed we had already covered most everything other than perhaps some long-term projections or plans for different strategies to consider but otherwise…
The appointment went well from a stress-free standpoint! Not so much the getting there – that had lots of stress in it, all self-induced. If I was Klingon, I would not even be able to apologize for my aggravation, since the Klingons do not have words for “sorry” because no Klingon would use them and if I, as a Klingon, did, I would lose all honor. I’m not certain where my brain was but after leaving a little later than I wanted, I was sidetracked by something and found myself in an area full of construction and traffic and there was no way I was going to get to the doctor’s office on time. If I could have just beamed down from the ship it would have been so much simpler! Space travel, with the exception of a nasty meteor shower or two, can be a lot less stressful than Ohio roads during construction season!
To the doctor’s report… It is encouraging news and at a minimum no earth-shattering prophesies of difficult days. The gist of it is this… After a thorough review of all the tests and the reports from the Cleveland Clinic, the IPF is there, it is a fact of life. It is, though, in the early stages and does not appear to have fully involved all parts of both lungs yet. The Cleveland Clinic pathologist was concerned that the blood vessels from the heart to the lungs were enlarged and not getting enough blood pumped from the heart to the lungs, ie, some heart failure. The echocardiogram showed that to NOT be a concern! Thank You LORD! The percentage of blood pumped from heart to the body is good and the percentage to the lungs is okay too. Again, Thank You LORD!
Another issue, you may recall, was whether there was infection or something going on in the lungs that would exacerbate the IPF, and if there was something there steroid treatment may help and at the same time allow the lungs some ‘breathng room.’ What the Cleveland Clinic pathologist identified was basically two types of pneumonia that are not the typical pneumonia we think of but ones which are impacting small parts of the lung and should respond to steroids. There is an agreement among everyone that if the steroids help take care of that pneumonia, it may help the rest of the lungs to gain a little resilience. At the end of another course of steroids, about four more weeks, we will complete another series of breathing tests and CAT scans to see where everything is then. At that point, we may then begin a specific medicine that has been shown to help slow IPF. It won’t cure it, it can’t stop the movement of the disease, but it can give me some relief. At the same time we will begin some oxygen therapy to assist during times of exertion.
With that, the VOYAGE continues! I have overwhelming thankfulness for our ship’s Commander. The Passenger, all the shipmates and our great crew are going to move forward on our voyage through these next few weeks – grab a little vacation during this time – love one another and enjoy the view out of the star ports!