Sometimes, it begins with a head cold. Other times, a CF flare-up starts with a raw burning in the chest that makes me feel like I’ve been chain-smoking all night. But however it begins, it always ends with a lot of medicine. During my last bout, in January, here’s what it took to calm things down: a month of inhaled tobramycin (four capsules twice daily), two weeks of clarithromycin (two pills twice daily), followed by a week or so of prednisone.
That’s actually not bad by cystic fibrosis standards; chest infections send a lot of CF patients to the hospital for IV treatments. I’m one of the lucky ones, which is what I’m trying to focus on as the telltale signs of a new infection set in: slight shortness of breath, productive cough. I’m also thinking about Pacific dolphins.
Last Sunday, on the ferry back to Vancouver Island after a weekend with friends in Seattle, I saw some Pacific Dolphins in the waters of Puget Sound. I’d had my nose in a wonderfully smutty book for forty-five minutes or so when I looked out the window for a moment. That’s when I saw it, ten metres away: a dorsal fin disappearing under the waves! And then another, and another, and another! Several grey, slick-backed beauties darted in and out of the surf before disappearing in it altogether.
What a gift! And this on the heels of a wonderful weekend of laughing, shopping, and wandering along pebbled beaches with old friends. And ice cream! Did I mention the Molly Moon’s ice cream? We shared scoops of honey lavender, salted caramel, and Earl Grey, garnished with sour cherries and candied hazelnuts.
The taste of friendship: whipped cream and sprinkles melting on your tongue as you snort with laughter together under the hot sun. Is there anything better?
When a new CF flare-up settles in, I tend to oscillate between self-pity (Wah! Not again!) or anger (F#@k you, CF!). Or I turn to allegory (I’m just like Sysiphus, forever pushing a boulder up a hill only to have it come tumbling back down!). But then I gently force myself to adopt a broader perspective. I’m safe, I’m loved, I’m so lucky in so many ways. I don’t live in a war-torn country, I live on beautiful Vancouver Island.
So I’m writing this post as a reminder to shift my attention to the positive, whenever possible. I might have CF, but I also have good friends, great adventures, and much to be thankful for. Life is like a ferry ride: sometimes it’s smooth sailing, and the waves gently unspool before you like blue silk stretched taut. Other times you ride the giant swells like a rodeo queen. And still other times you cower in the back, seasick and wretched. But always, there are unexpected gifts: like a pod of Pacific dolphins dancing like quicksilver in the unfathomable blue sea.