My Two Favorite Dorks

My Two Favorite Dorks

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Do's and Don'ts of Waiting for Transplant



There's been a lot of seriousness going on here at The L Word lately. In the spirit of both lightening the mood a bit and as a fun way to kick off my blog's new look, I thought I would come up with a list of things to do and not to do while waiting for a transplant. And p.s., while searching for images for this blog I came across this series of hilarious pregnancy-related pictures that, while totally unrelated to my particular subject matter, were just too funny not to include.


DO - Eat a lot, sleep a lot, exercise a lot.
DON'T - Eat an entire 2-lb bag of candy corn in one day, even if it is the most delicious candy corn you've had in years.

DO - Continue socializing with friends, as energy allows.
DON'T - Go anywhere you can't either have your transplant bag with you in the car or be within 20 minutes of the house.


DO - Watch movies and stream your favorite TV shows.
DON'T - Watch shows that hit a little too close to home, like, for instance, Six Feet Under.

DO - Order as much as you can online to avoid having to do errands while carting around an oxygen tank.
DON'T - Let your husband know that you have ordered so much online that you have memorized your credit card number, expiration date and CVC code.


DO - Keep up body hygiene* with regular hair washing and sink baths. Be generous with lotion and chap stick at all times...post transplant is an extremely dry time and you want your skin in the best shape possible. (*I cannot take showers with my port accessed)
DON'T - Wear anything that has too much of a scent (lotions, essential oils) - especially to rehab - both for other people and for fear of setting off a reaction in yourself.

DO - If you are going out, look like it! I spend 90% of my waking time in exercise clothes and pajamas. Those skinny jeans and cute tops have never felt better.
DON'T - Let it be obvious at rehab that you wear the same pants multiple times per week - usually just breaking up the days you wear them will do.


DO - Be communicative with people with what's going on with you. But learn to edit/tailor what you say, when necessary.
DON'T - Go to the wrong friend/family member for the wrong reason. Everyone has their strengths and comfort level with what you share with them.

DO - Surround yourself with things that make you comfortable; indulge (nice sleepwear, stuffed animal replicas of your pets, your favorite night cream).
DON'T - Go through Starbucks drive thru every single day after rehab.



DO - Continue to keep up with things around the house, do what you can when you can.
DON'T - Stress about things you don't have the energy to do; learn to let things go that aren't important.

DO - Make sure you prioritize your energy into things that matter the most (snuggling with kitties, dinner dates, taking care of yourself, keeping up hobbies).
DON'T - Overextend yourself.


That's it for now! Have you thought of anything I missed? Feel free to comment below. Also, I'd love to hear what you think about the new blog design.


 For the latest Laura news, visit What's the Latest?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Time


Will it be another weekend of catnaps?
Or, perhaps, something more exciting??
Y'all have no idea how crazy my life is right now. I mean, you have some idea if you are a reader of this blog or if we are close in real life. But even those closest to me do not get all the details of things I am exposed to every single day.

Rehab. I talk about it a lot. I complain about it a lot. I sing its praises. I dread it and I love it - we have a very complicated relationship, rehab and I. (smile) I have shared stories with some of you about people I've met there. I even wrote a post last month about about my rehab buddies.

Recently, for the purposes of my own mental health and sanity, I have tried to take a step back from some of rehab-ville so I can stay focused on myself. It has not made sad things any less sad or happy things any less happy, but it has allowed me to find a mental place where both focus and empathy can co-exist.

This was a very difficult week for me. I watched someone from rehab with whom I have a strong connection go on a very treacherous journey. But, and I feel kind of horrible saying this, it is partly because of the shock and sadness this week that I have now gotten to a place of such mental clarity. I had to see it, process it, talk about it, feel it, and then - as per my new tools for coping with life right now - set it aside in the proper mental compartment. This sadness will suck the life out of you if you let it. And as I wrote about in recalling last weekend's dry run and the subsequent follow-up post - I don't want to allow that to happen to me.

While my moods these days can change like the tides, I really hope I can hold this focus. Because for the first time in a while I am really and truly excited for the phone to ring. Despite the risks/possible complications/horrible stories I've heard, I know that I will have my own journey. We get our chance with new lungs, with new life, and this is my chance. This is my time! I feel empowered knowing that the things I bring to this are the elements for an extremely successful outcome.

"Whoo-hoo!"

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When All Else Fails


Sometimes going to see some turtles is all it takes
to get your mind back on track.
This is a follow-up to my post from earlier today:

I just took a long walk - well, as long as one can go carting a very large oxygen tank in 80-some degree weather not too long before dusk - and cleared my head. I didn't want to overwhelm you all with reading material today but I wanted to get down some important things that I realized.

I can think of no other way to describe the bad place my head was in yesterday other than that I was so very tightly wound up that, try as I might, I just could not unwind my brain.

The first thing I realized is that my main goal right now should be peace and tranquility. End of story. Other stuff is secondary to that. Whatever happens after transplant, I will deal with it then. I do not need to think any more about transplant "what ifs" - I have thought it all to exhaustion. If I have a scary thought, I am redirecting it right to a happy one, like laying on the beach with my friends or hiking with Todd out West. Peace and tranquility, peace and tranquility, peace and tranquility...

The second thing I realized has two parts: One thing is that I need to take a step back - both from my iPhone and my transplant message board. I have become too involved - admittedly, almost obsessed - with what is happening when with so-and-so. I love these people and I genuinely care about their well-being and want to know what's going on with them, but for my mental health right now I need to be engaging more on the scale of a couple - not a couple hundred - times per day.

The second thing, tied into but also somewhat separate from the above, is that I have become way too attached to my iPhone. It was an easy habit to get into because since being listed I have been tethered to my phone like never before. But all that has to mean is that the phone is within earshot - not line of sight. Again, I love my friends and I love the people with whom I text - please don't take this as a sign to stop! I loved all the messages yesterday. It's just that in day-to-day life I'm going to try to chill out with it a little bit (much to Todd's appreciation I'm sure!)

The last thing I realized as I walked along the small section of the Greenway soaking in all the urban nature my little brain could handle, was that life is fucking beautiful. And how awesome and amazing it is that we (humans) are a part of it! It's easy to lose sight of and forget if you let yourself.

So that's it. My brain has been reset. I'm kind of impressed with myself that I was able to do it so quickly - amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it and you're not awaiting news of a possible life-changing surgery! But then again, everything important is quickly expedited around here these days.

Thank you, as always, for joining me on this journey, and for seeing me through all of the ups and downs. I'm ready for the phone to ring! And I continue to be so very grateful for each passing day that I remain relatively well and stable while I wait.

L

Mijn Tweede Drooglopen (or, "My Second Dry Run" in a language that sounds cool)


Todd and I at The Pit, right after we received 'the call' after finishing lunch.
Cool as a cucumber? I don't think so!
After a bit of a drought of my own - with respect to blogging here the last couple of weeks - we had the thrilling experience of another dry run yesterday.

The whole thing went down very similarly to last time: got called on a Saturday afternoon, the timing was pretty good for us (napping vs just finishing a meal), the hospital was eerily still and empty, and we didn't end up being at the hospital for an incredibly long time. Both calls came, neatly, two days and roughly two months after being listed.

The Initial Work-Up

We were at the hospital for longer this time, and we did get a little further along in the work-up. When I got there I gave them a urine sample, changed into a gown, they did a bedside EKG, drew a ton of blood from my trusty port, swabbed my nose and went through my medications. I was running a very low-grade fever (which I wasn't aware of) but they weren't concerned about it.

After a while, someone working with the surgeon on call, who was Dr Davis, came to go through my medications again, ask me questions about how I had been feeling and have me sign the consent for surgery. The woman was very matter-of-fact-ish and kind of rubbed me the wrong way. But she was tolerable. At least she didn't dwell on the "you realize that lung transplant is the end of the road" part of the consent like the guy did last time.

Annoyed

All-in-all, I was not super thrilled/impressed/un-annoyed with the staff I came into contact with. Surely my attitude going in (being less than ideal for whatever reason) was part of the cause of my annoyance. Things definitely got started off on the wrong foot when the guy transporting me from check-in to my room gave us a 10-minute non-stop, repetitive, talking-to-himself-ish "tour" of all that we were seeing along the way with such pizzaz and articulation as "that spikey thing you see is the top of the Chapel...you can see that spikey part, that's part of Duke Chapel."

Lavender-scented stress ball...a good investment.
I was also rubbed the wrong way by a couple of the nurses who were very nice but who kept asking me questions and talking on top of one another regardless of whatever else was going on. They added chaos to my uneasiness. And, during what seemed like endless preparations for a shift change, one nurse seemed to be explaining the same obvious things to the other in a way that seemed both slightly condescending and/or control freakish. In fact, there was more than one moment when I found myself thinking, "y'all have done this before, right??"And the strange thing? I had BOTH of these nurses for my last dry run! Who knows. At least they were well-meaning. But the first nurse did not leave, poking her head in after about three previous goodbyes, without saying she would pray for this to be my day, which I thought was a little inappropriate.

More Prep

Anyway, more time elapsed. I was told to take off my insulin pump and they transitioned me to an insulin drip. I was also given my first dose of Prograf, for which mom and Todd had to mask up in addition to their gowns so as to not accidentally inhale any of its particles. The pill is emptied under your tongue and dissolves within a minute or so. Thankfully it is tasteless.

Eventually, a respiratory therapist (RT) came in to give me what my new nurse (whose grip on the English language was good enough to get her a job at Duke but not good enough to keep me from asking her over and over to repeat herself) called "albo" - albuterol, I finally realized - before two nebulized antibiotics. Why I had to request the RT to not lay out my assembled nebulizer cups (mouthpieces exposed!!) onto my very un-sterile bed sheets I will never know. Anyway, one of the antibiotics they gave me I have had before but no longer do because it was causing me brocho-spasm (Colistin) and the other I had not had (Amikacin - notorious for making people cough their brains out.) I did fine with both of them.

The pre-surgery checklist
Oh yes, I almost forgot one of the most annoying things! Before my breathing treatments, I wanted to try to clear myself out as much as possible - that is what I do at home with my therapy: vest with inhaled saline that makes me cough stuff up followed by other nebulized things that I want to stay down there and do their thing. This was per a suggestion by the surgeon I met in clinic last week named Dr Lin who suggested I do some good airway clearance before surgery to make lung removal less messy.

So I was huffing and coughing to get stuff out but there was one problem. My IV pump would start beeping every time I would cough really hard - we are talking really obnoxious, drive you crazy, insanely loud beeping. We finally figured out which button to push but seriously, how ridiculous is that? The cause was some kind of issue with back-pressure in my port when I coughed and the slowness of the IV drip. But again, why isn't this something that happens enough that they are familiar with it?

Finally Some News

We had arrived around 3:30. The only information I had about a time we might hear whether or not the surgery was "a go" was that the donor OR time was 7:30 pm. So we knew it would be at least that late, probably later. Just before 10 pm, the coordinator called to say it was a no-go. I thanked him for letting me finish my banana pudding after his initial call earlier and we were outta there about 20 minutes later, no worse for ware other than minus 15 or so vials of blood, feeling a little hungry and with the lingering sensations of Prograf in my mouth.

Here is me, feeling very un-zen even with all of the
Jedi mind-tricks I implored upon myself
The Mental Challenge

So that's the play-by-play. But I have said nothing about what was going on in my head. If I could give myself a grade for how I handled the first dry run I would give myself an A-. For this one? Probably a C. In other words, I was holding it together but my head was not where I wanted it to be despite my affirmations, meditation, breathing/stretching and come-to-Jesus talks with myself.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why...if I was superstitious I would say maybe it "meant" that it was not the right time for my transplant to happen. But that is not how I want to think about things with my Buddhism-with-a-twist-of-science spiritual beliefs. I was feeling a lot more scared and a lot less zen than I thought I would...I was not scared about whether or not I was doing the right thing, I was scared about the possible risks/complications/unforeseen things that may come from the surgery. If there are two things I have learned from all the transplant people I've met it is that every person's journey truly is unique. Also, the possibility for something unexpected happening is almost a guarantee - you can only hope that it is something that is easy to fix!

The last page of my favorite childhood book, The Fat Cat, shows a pretty spot-on depiction of what I will look like after transplant surgery, don'tcha think?
Basically, all of the stuff I cannot control I was having a hard time letting go of. I have known from the start of this process that this would be the most difficult mental part of this surgery, to relinquish control (at least for some time) of my care. With all of my dissecting and analyzing of this process, I still feel like it is never going to feel "natural" to do that. I am going to have to close my eyes and believe that the net will appear (thank you for the constant reminder of that, Erica Haney.)

I was also feeling sad off and on, for a reason I can't explain other than the fact that I was just over-run emotionally and that's the way it came out. But I didn't want to be sad going in for transplant. I didn't want to be sad or scared or hesitant. I want to be at peace - I believe that a peaceful mind puts your body in the best possible place for surgery; I believe that the mind has a tremendous amount of control over the body. But I just couldn't get myself there.

After a heart-to-heart with Todd, I did manage to get to a point of being at least okay with things - I would have been able to do it, and I think both Todd and I thought surgery was a very real possibility. But excited? Not so much. I can only hope that next time will be the time and that I will be able to bring my "A" game.




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What's the Latest? (Part 3)


We've missed doing a lot of things this summer,
but going out to Montana is probably at the top of the list
Dear Readers: I never thought I would be waiting this long! Thank you for continuing to follow my journey. I hope the wait will not fill another long page of updates.

Wednesday, October 22 - stopping IVs!!!
Had a very good clinic appointment at Duke yesterday. I went in there with a whole page of questions and came out a very happy camper. Of course he had no answer for the real question on all of our minds - how come I have been waiting for this long?? - other than that one never knows for sure how long they will have to wait. But he was very surprised I have had to wait this long. Here are the highlights from the visit:
  • NO MORE IV OR OTHER ANTIBIOTICS!!! - I am discontinuing no fewer than 5 medications for the time being (4 abx, 1 anti-fungal). This is the first time I have been off IVs in 3.5 months. I am so happy to be able to sleep!!! (Sleeping is way more exciting than being able to shower, trust me.) Nothing has changed to take me off the meds but since I am stable, we don't want my body to become totally resistant to these drugs. When we started these with the plan of being on them until transplant, none of us ever thought it would have been for this long. We are also hoping that stopping the Cipro will make some of my random symptoms go away that may be side effects from the drug (inflamed ligament in my foot, muscle spasms, inflammation along my gum line, increased ear ringing.)
  • We made an awesome new discovery! Instead of my crappy feeling over the last few weeks being what I had come to think of as "a new low" I would just have to get used to, we have discovered that in fact it is most likely due to low iron - anemia. I attribute my grumpiness, fatigue, headaches and memory problems to this. We are starting an iron supplement and I am hopeful that will improve things.
  • We are going to redo my ECHO cardiogram to see if I show signs of worsening pulmonary hypertension that may be causing my lightheadedness with coughing. If there is significant chance, we may think about redoing my right heart cath in order to improve my LAS score.
  • We are going to do an overnight oximetry (here at home, not a sleep study) to make sure I am oxygenating appropriately at night. This is again to see if this might be the cause of any of my headaches/memory issues/fatigue I'm having.
So yes - all good things. I was also able to have them change my routine arterial blood gasses (very uncomfortable needle in your wrist) to venous blood gasses (nice simple draw from my port.) And I got them to back off on the number of routine x-rays I'm getting - x-rays show so little change for cystics (unless there is an incident) that it's pointless to expose me to all that extra radiation! Wish I had that conversation with them months ago. I was thinking when I got home that the doc seemed so amenable to all of my requests...I should have asked about taking codeine for my back pain (also an issue lately)! But I have a feeling they wouldn't have budged on that.

So yes, still much going on, but feeling very good about the place I am at right now and a lot less overwhelmed by my schedule right now (rehab and IVs). I hope I can stay off these IVs for a while.



Friday, October 17 - just over 13 weeks listed
This has been a challenging couple of weeks for me. My IV antibiotic schedule of an hour and a half of infusions every eight hours is really kicking my ass. I have been tired, coughing a lot, not sleeping well, having fits of broncho-spasm (uncontrollable, unstopable coughing), other random things have cropped up. And I think that worsening anemia may be responsible for some of my recent fatigue, bad mood, headaches and memory trouble. I'm surprised that nobody caught that out of all the people I have talked to about these problems.


This week, feeling lost in the doldrums of the Duke system with respect to my CF care (as opposed to my pre-transplant care, slight difference) I went back to see my old CF doctor to check in and get his thoughts on things. It was so great to see him!! And to get his reassurance that he thought I was doing all of the right things. He did have a few little tips, but overall he said that I looked better than before he sent me over to Duke!

Also this week I spoke to the woman in charge at rehab. She was very understanding and accommodating about my recent frustrations and has allowed me some much better options for working out. (More on that in my post from last week.) I also talked to my coordinator about some things that have been bothering me as well. Good to have things out in the open.

The adventure continues!


Thursday, October 2 - 11 weeks listed
This week has been up and down for me both physically and mentally. Blah.

I finally started on an additional IV antibiotic yesterday, Cipro - I had been trying to make that happen all week. I have to say, for all of Duke's wonderfulness, I have found their adult CF care to be lacking. I have been running down slowly over the last couple of weeks...low-grade fevers coming and going, lower energy, not as much exercise stamina some days, more coughing, more shortness of breath than usual.

Me with cat, feeling shit-tastic from new IV antibiotics today
Unfortunately the schedule is kind of kicking my ass...both of my IVs are every 8 hours, which means I am running about an hour and a half of medicine (total) back to back three times a day. It's going to make life tricky for the next couple of weeks.

Psychologically I am also working on a few things.
  • Continuing to find balance between compassion for those around me and prioritizing taking care of myself
  • Adjusting my expectations of what this transplant wait will possibly look like so as to not be continually driving myself crazy
  • Lowering my "baseline stress" level with some new mindfulness techniques that my very helpful transplant psychologist gave me
  • Trying to stay positive, surround myself with peaceful and happy people and things

Thursday, September 25 - 10 weeks listed
Quick update:
  • The lung drought at Duke seems to have lifted - yay! Of course that is no guarantee, but last weekend's dry run, for instance, was a part of two other dry runs and two other transplants at Duke.
  • My lungs still seem to be holding steady. I do have days I feel like crap and run low-grade fevers but those are not often. 
  • Rehab has been a bit of a physical struggle - I just don't seem to be able to do as much strength training as I was before. Also, I've been granted a bit of a relaxed schedule for a couple of weeks to help the mental burnout I had. That has helped.
Saturday, September 20 - I got another call!
Another call, another false alarm. The take-away? Duke will accept only the best...which is clearly why I myself am there. :)

Read all about my day.

Wednesday, September 17 - ~ 9 weeks or exactly 2 months listed
I'm not gonna lie, I have been struggling - with waiting, with rehab, with how to parcel out my energy. My positivity has waned. I'm tired of waiting for the perfect set of lungs!

Everyone at Duke - doctors, coordinators and patients - is frustrated with the lack of good organs available for transplant in the last couple of months. Duke's list is currently four times the size it was two months ago. And it has been that high for about two weeks. No one else who is close to 5'4" with O-positive blood and 25% antibodies come to Duke right now to be listed for a lung transplant! (That includes you sneaky life-flighters.) I kid...but being in this situation definitely gives you a morbid sense of humor.

I had monthly clinic yesterday, got to meet another one of the surgeons, Dr Lin. He was nice. Had a full day otherwise of testing and whatnot. Nothing has really changed. When I asked Dr Lin how long I could expect with my new lungs, he said that I have the pulmonary disease with the highest success for lung transplant and I am right in the middle of the age demographic that does the best with transplant (people in their mid-30s.) He said that I could expect about 8 years on average - that's amazing!

It's frustrating being sooo close to a new, incredible life yet still so far away. I can taste it, I can smell it, I can feel it...but at the end of the day I am still doing IVs every eight hours, three vest treatments per day, sterilizing nebulizers every three days, washing my hair in the tub and taking sink baths. (Super bonus flip side: still lots of kitty kissing time which will be a no-no for a long time after transplant...maybe even forever.)

And I'm still going to rehab. This has really been a struggle for me - I cannot figure out how much of it is mental and how much is physical but it's probably both. I'm just tired of it. I have been going almost every single day since early May! My coordinator is going to talk to the doc about me only doing three days a week. I think that would do wonders for my body and my mind. And I may just start by giving myself tomorrow off!
(Update: a M, W, F rehab schedule has been approved for me for the next couple of weeks, just to give me a bit of a break -- yay!!! However, if any fellow Duke people are reading this I have been told that this is a rare/unique situation and to keep it quiet so please, no broadcasting.)

But anyway, I'm not looking for practical solutions or suggestions right now, I'm really just venting. Thanks for listening.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

What I Believe: Buddhism with a Twist of Science


Writer Jack Kerouac once described his religion
as "Catholicism mixed with gin."
One of the most excellent things about pulmonary rehabilitation is all of the great people I've met: young, older, local, out-of-towners, and people with every imaginable kind of pulmonary disease. But there is one aspect that has at times been challenging and it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately: I have been thrust into a world of kind, well-meaning and very religious (Christian) people. In my pre-transplant world, I had become sheltered from that culture.

First of all, I do not have a problem with religious people (unless you are trying to convert me and in that case stay the fuck away! I think at most one can have things figured out for himself. Beyond that is arrogance and disrespect.)

Most of my family is Christian, I grew up going to a Presbyterian Church with a bunch of great people, and I even have a few religious friends. I know a lot of people who consider themselves spiritual in one way or another. I have a handful of temple-going Buddhist friends (I am not among them.)

And so it is that I have gotten to the point that I can be grateful for, and not cringe at, someone saying they will pray for me (mostly). And, most importantly, I have come to realize that each person has her own individual ways of caring and expressing that care for her fellow humans. In my mind, any love and care is a good thing. More care + love = world is a better place.

Buddhism with a Twist

Christianity is just one means to an end, one way of living your life. I will spare you the story of how my unhappiness with Christianity unfolded. Suffice to say that I have developed my own personal religion - I'll call it "Buddhism with a Twist of Science."

I have one "golden rule," (not all that different from the original golden rule): do the right thing because it's the right thing to do. Sounds pretty vague, right? Here is what I mean.

A mandala is a geometric figure representing
the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism
This golden rule doesn't just serve as my religious/spiritual view of the world but as the way I have molded my morals and the way I try to shape my actions; it is also the basis for my strong environmental convictions. I feel obligated to do the right things, take the right actions, give back to a world that has given me so much, and be the best person I can be because it is the right thing to do, not because there are repercussions, punishments, or because I might become a factory farmed chicken in my next life.

The golden rule means that I answer to the person with the absolute most rigorous, highest possible standards that could be set for myself: me. It means that if I know I have let someone down, I have let myself down more. It means that if I do something wrong and I know it's wrong, I punish myself repeatedly in my head. To me, the struggles of woman are lost and won on the battlefield of her conscience.


In addition to this practice/philosophy of living the right way because it's the right thing to do, Buddhism - and I use the word loosely because I don't have as strong of a grasp on it as I would like - also comes into my beliefs in that I believe god is in all things. (Side note: Todd and I have been watching the Cosmos series...Wow! Highly recommend it. Highly. Actually, stop reading this and go watch it now...or soon. Seriously. It's that good. And that important. Society has so lost touch with the amazingness of our scientific discoveries! But I digress...)

To elaborate, my god is in plants and animals, sand and sky, earth worms and dirt. Yes, dirt! God is in the bursting blossoms of our rhododendron bush in spring, it is the smell of jasmine, it is in my nephew's smile over Skype when he's absentmindedly twirling his hair and being shy still sleepy from his nap, it is that impossible hockey goal scored in the last seconds of the game, it is in the big sky of Montana, the cobblestone sidewalks of small Irish towns, the cloud forests of Central America, being in the desert surrounded by nothingness, it is enjoying every bite of a really good meal, it is a ring whose ornaments make you smile, it is a song that makes you cry, it is in finally figuring out the answer to a really tough problem, it is the end of a really great workout, it is a doctor with a gift to have his patient always leave him happy, it is a job you love, it is waking up with a warm purring cat next to you, it is the first kiss you give your dog after his bath, it is a brand new car you never thought you could afford, it is a husband who will do everything to take care of you, and yes, it is the first sip of double-brewed iced coffee with cream on a warm sunny blue-skied afternoon in North Carolina. God is all the moments that make life worth living. To me.

And while humans are especially, well, special, we are also un-special in that we are made up of the very same elements as everything else in the universe: planets, comets, stars, black holes... it's really incredible and makes my mind twist to think about. We are more similar than different, all of us, everything.

What Sets Us Apart

We have evolved to such a high level of intelligence there is clearly a difference between us and most - but not all - other life on this planet. This means that we are able to appreciate Earth's beauty - through art, music, poetry - in a way in which other species who are solely concentrated on survival cannot do. It means that we have the ability to be gracious and thankful for all that we have, and that we should be generous to those who don't have as much as we do.

In Buddhism, the lotus flower is symbolic of purity
of the body, speech, and mind
And, as an environmentalist, it means that we should take care of this amazing planet. Not because we (humans) are the ones who have messed it up, not because we feel bad if we don't, not even just for future generations - although those are all great reasons! - but because it's the right thing to do. And because the world would be a better place if everyone acted this way.

The Language Barrier

My biggest complaint with my religion, and this is probably true for any religion that is more spiritual or philosophical than traditional - is that there isn't really a good vocabulary in which to talk about it. When someone says, "I'll pray for you," that's a really succinct way to express well wishes  toward a person.

To say other things such as "I'll be thinking good thoughts for you" or "I'll send good vibes/juju/love/wishes" just don't have the same ring. They sound wishy-washy, new agey, or just plain silly. We need another word that's as succinct as "pray." How about prish? (pray + wish or, alternatively, pray-ish lol)? While we're at it, I also want to update connotations of the words "fellowship" and "blessing" - I really like those words and there isn't a good, easy substitute for them. So there. I feel blessed by the stars of the galaxy, bitches!

The Milky Way Galaxy: there's no place like home
So back to pulmonary rehab. I think this immersion has been a good experience for me, as much as I have bitched and complained along the way to a select few, because it has allowed me to reexamine and fine tune my own religious/spiritual beliefs. We all need something to hold onto, maybe even more so when we're really sick and death is a lot closer than we'd like it to be.

My peace and comfort comes in knowing that I am doing the best I can while I am alive, and then when I die, the elements formerly known as Laura will return to their rightful place on Earth - and eventually the universe. One day, if I'm lucky, maybe I - maybe we all - will be part of one of nature's spectacular shows. Catboogie's comet? A Laura meteor shower? A super nova Laura?? The possibilities are, literally, endless.