“Now – BLOW! BLOW, BLOW, BLOW! Keep going! Keep going! Go as long and as hard as you can, Miriam! I know you can do it! Blow all the petals off the flower. You can do it!”
The instructions for a pulmonary function spirometry test (A test performed by pulmonologist to measure how well you can breathe) are so ingrained that I can do it now as an adult without prompting.
As a child, though, I had help from a Registered Respiratory Therapist, who typically also used incentive animation to help me know if I was doing the test properly or not. These cute cartoons ranged from blowing out candles, to filling up a balloon, to my personal favorite – blowing the petals off a flower.
The one that has always remained in my memory was the dandelion. When I started the spirometry test and breathed in, the dandelion had all its little seed pods intact. The purpose of the “game“ was to breathe out so long and hard that all the little dandelion pods would come off the flower, ending in my ultimate victory. Needless to say, due to my severe lung disease and constant infections due to Immunodeficiency disease (which was yet to be discovered), I was never able to blow out all the candles, blow-up the entire balloon, or worse still, blow all the beautiful little dandelion seed pods off that elusive flower. It seemed always beyond my reach.
Because of this, I guess I’ve always held that secret challenge in my heart. Whenever I was out and about and saw a little dandelion on the side of the road, I would secretly pick it up and try to blow the pods off. I tried to never make a big deal out of it, out of fear of being asked what I was up to. If anyone did ask me, I would merely smile and make some clever quip about a weed in the grass, or some sarcastic comment about being bored and needing to be better entertained. But it was always a personal test – could I get all the pods off the flower? Would I win my challenge that day?
Creating and designing my own website was a lot more challenging than I had initially anticipated. I had to take my personality, my style, my own crazy brain and apply it to a tactile piece of technology. I had to work with others (albeit far more genius than I) to come up with colors, fonts, a logo, and a theme that would represent my journey and message. Somehow I had to personify me, make people see ME when they came to But, Still Breathing.
But how? And with what?
After my transplant, I was assigned to go to pulmonary rehab in order to strengthen my new lungs. One of the exercises was to blow up a balloon. You start out by just trying to blow up the balloon by itself. Then you graduate to blowing up the balloon while lying on your back. And finally, you blow up the balloon while lying on your back and having a soft weight placed on your diaphragm. To an “every-day-healthy-person” this may sound super easy, even ridiculous. However, I have to tell you, that the first time I tried to blow up the balloon, the only thing that happened was that I spit back in my own face! For real. I’m not kidding. Or exaggerating.
The flash that came back to my mind was my childhood and that silly dandelion animation. And suddenly I felt like a failure. But somehow that feeling spawned inside me a determination to work hard, and then work harder, and then work harder still.
“BLOW! BLOW! BLOW! I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT!”
Eventually, sooner than I thought possible, I was able to blow up the balloon with no problems. I felt extremely victorious and strong. Which I suppose was the whole point all along.
As a child, not being able to blow the seedpods off that stupid dandelion animation was always a source of frustration for me. But, that frustration created inside me some kind of work ethic, a need to try harder, a need to get better, a need to do everything in my power, within my limits to be as healthy as possible, as strong as possible. So in a sense, the dandelion became a symbol of those feelings from then, until now. A motivator.
Oh, and just as an update, I have since been able to blow the pods off every stinking dandelion I’ve seen lately, and then some. Haha! I win!
So, that’s why I chose the dandelion as the main theme, logo, and symbol for the relaunch of But, Still Breathing. It carries the thoughts and feelings of breath, strength, determination, work, hope. All the things that I wish to develop in myself and to convey to others.
Thank you to all of you that have supported me and helped me along the way. The journey continues.
“I do not believe in the weeds. A weed is simply a flower that someone decides is in the wrong place. Why should the Taraxacum struggle in the cracks? It deserves an efficacious spot in which to flourish!”
-Sister Monica Joan, Call the Midwife