Since the day I had my transplant I’ve had many conversations with other patients who were past their one year date and what it felt like to be at that point. What it was like to be celebrating finally being over that infamous one year hump. They all have different stories to tell, about how that first year went, but it ultimately came down to the same singularity – appreciation. And outside that overwhelming appreciation for an extra year of life that was unexpected, each patient expressed differing feelings and emotions.
Of course, I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be one of them now.
So, here I sit, on the morning of my “lungiversary.” This is my one year anniversary of my double lung transplant. One year ago today, I began “a second life.” I was given a chance to live; to be a part of my family and my friends lives longer than we expected.
When I think of everything that transpired on this day, one year ago, I am in awe. Sometimes it overwhelms me to really think about everything that had to come together to make it work.
Because of someone else’s decision to be an organ donor, a selfless final act of kindness, my hardworking transplant team found perfectly matched lungs for me, with no time to spare. My surgical team was amazingly skilled and performed a unsurpassed bloodless transplant, with very little complications. You cannot find better or more skilled professionals anywhere else in the world. These are amazing people, and it shows that they love what they do. I view many of them not just as my nurses or doctors or medical professionals, but my friends.
My family and friends were there every step of the way. They never left me, never let me feel abandoned. There were times that medications or sickness made me someone who I was not, but this still did not deter them. Something as big and scary as transplant scares a lot of people off, but I am surrounded by those made of stronger materials, and this process showed me that. There are no words, or in fact any actions either, that will ever be able to show my family and friends what it means to me that they stayed with me through this difficult year. But, I know that they all know how special each of them are to me, and that I love them all so very dearly.
When I look back on this year, I feel as if I lived five years. Maybe longer. If I’m truly honest with myself, I feel like I’ve lived a decade of tragedies and hardships. However, I’ve also lived a decade of victories and moments of elation. Talk about mixed emotions. When they say the first year of transplant is arduous, it’s true. But, if I do serious self-evaluation, I must also admit to myself that I am equally triumphant.
I think because I haven’t been able to climb a mountain, or run a marathon, or reach any of the other characteristically unrealistic goals I set for myself in the beginning, that I had failed at being a successful transplant patient. I was comparing myself to other people, and that just doesn’t work. I have had a rough year. I’m not in a condition to run yet. (Who am I kidding, I will never run. Let’s just clear that up right here.) But, I will get to a point where I can do the things I have set out for myself. It will just take me a little bit longer to get that far. And that’s OK. I need to let myself feel like it’s OK to go at my own pace, and not feel I have to meet some preconceived formula of expectations. Slow is fine, as long as you’re still trying to move.
In the meantime, on my one year anniversary, I’m reevaluating. I’m looking back over all of the tragedy/victory over the last year. Which one won over? And what does that mean for me moving forward?
I choose to think that my successes, however small, will always trump my failures. Therefore, I will win every time. Moving forward, I choose to make this next year even better than the last. This will honor the sacrifices that everyone has made on my behalf – my donor, my family, my friends, my transplant team.
I may climb a mountain someday. But, no running. please. I don’t run.