Looking Back

My favorite personal post since being struck over six years ago by histoplasmosis, the condition, though eradicated, has led and leads me ever closer to an early demise.

From 2012:

As the Year 2012 rushes to an end, and none too quickly, I am struck with a reflective mood. The year has definitely been rocky and filled with far more valleys than I would have wanted or anticipated. But where there are valleys, it means there are also mountains. With mountains, it means there were also “mountain top experiences“. Yes, the Year 2012 was a full mix of ups and downs.

As 2012 rang in, there was the usual midnight toast and kiss, but the minutes were also anxiety ridden. I had lossed over 30 pounds in one month, been running a fever, coughing spells leading to nausea and dry heaves. Iohn and I, however, tried to be optimistic and look forward to 2012 as being a much better year than 2011. How mistaken we were in so many ways.

I slowly began to gain a little weight back when I relapsed and lost 15 pounds in two weeks. This prompted a visit to the doctor’s office, something I am reluctant to do. I finally had no choice. This visit lead to one of my deepest valleys as the doctors were concerned that I either had contracted tuberculosis or developed lung cancer. From the doctor’s office to the hospital and then the surgery ward to have a double bronchoscopy and lung biopsy. I woke in the hospital bed many hours later with three tubes sticking out of my side. I remained hospitalized for a total of 20 days, nearly three weeks.

Mark in the Hospital for Surgery

The surgery, however, did lead to what was probably the highest point and most welcome news of all of the past year. I learned that I would live. I may have to adapt, adjust, make changes, but I was going to live. My condition was not life threatening. There was no TB. There was no cancer. What the doctors discovered was a non-specific bacterial infection of my right lobe which rendered it useless. In the words of my surgeon, my right lung was now nothing more than a “dried up sponge“.

I continue to struggle with the breathing. I am still getting use to having only one lung. But I am alive and cantankerous as ever if not more so.

Then in September came my second most memorable and elation-filled moment. On the 20th of that month, my second granddaughter, Alaina Dee, came into the world. There is little to compare to the joy of the birth of a grandchild other than the birth of your own child. This was a real shining moment in a year of so much darkness.

Alaina Dee and Grandpa

Before Alaina’s birth, was my third-rated mountain top experience of 2012. In June I was honored by CNN‘s iReport community with a Spirit Award for my contributions over the last year. This came as a total shock and surprise. But I am eternally honored and grateful for such a recognition.

CNN iReport Spirit Award

That same month another highlight of the year came with an appearance on CNN Saturday Morning when I was interviewed by Randi Kaye on health care and the Affordable Care Act. This interview came not long before the Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA. I was later inteviewed by phone by HLN following the Supreme Court decision.

CNN Interview with Randi Kaye

Then there was another high when I was picked to debate the ACA with another iReporter, Egberto Willies, as part of the iReport Debate series. We were debating the pros and cons of the healthcare law with me taking the con side of the argument.

iReport Healthcare Debate

Most of the valleys I have had to go through this year have been in some way or another health related. Adapting to my new life has been rather traumatic at times. But then again one other health concern actually turned into another mountain.

My doctors surmised my lung infection was caused by a genetic condition that began a few years ago which began decaying my teeth and the teeth breaking off. What the doctors believe is that during the night the infection from my mouth and gums would aspirate into my lungs. With help from friends, family and an email to the Governor of Indiana, I was able to get the decaying teeth and tooth stubs pulled and replaced with dentures. Many who follow Inside My Mind and my CNN iReport contributions also traveled with me through both the lung surgery, hospitalization and the dental procedures.

The Dental Journey

While I’ve been battling with the medical and dental issues surrounding my lungs and teeth, my other conditions, cluster headaches and presumed ocular histoplasmosis syndrome (POHS), have also been problematic. There is also the major depression I must battle daily. Good news on the POHS is that it seems to be in hiatus and not progressing at the moment.

Iohn’s roller coaster employment situation has been frustrating for both of us throughout the year. Thankfully as the year comes to an end, he is once more gainfully employed. The financial struggles over the last two years have been draining and at times seemed like it would sink us. But, here we are facing a new year and still holding on, still together after what will be eight years in February.

Continuing to be difficult on me is not being able to see my sons, Dave and Kev; their wives, Anna and Hailey; and my granddaughters, Dylan and Alaina, as much as I would like. Each holiday, while my siblings gather with their children and grandchildren, Iohn and I celebrate alone waiting for that phone call or text or email from the boys.

While the road has been rocky and the future uncertain as we sit on the cusp of 2013, life goes on. Then again the alternative doesn’t seem all that appealing on this snowy winter’s night.

From the Cornfield, life’s ship was never meant to sail only on calm seas going nowhere. Life was meant to toss and roll with the waves becoming stronger and better for riding the surf and appreciating whenever a harbor was reached.

As the song goes, without the rain we would never have the flowers. Or as my Mom once wrote in a poem, you can never climb the mountain unless you go through the valley first.

Happy New Year to one and all. May the coming year find you healthy and may your soul prosper.

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