A Personal Mordor

We’ve been watching the Lord of the Rings these past few days. As with many things on this journey to wellness, we take comfort in the familiar. These stories, always to me, are about succeeding against the odds and, more importantly, the fellowship of friends and family and the strength of the ties that bind us all together. The wise Meriadoc Brandybuck said to Frodo “You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends…” This week, we’ve been well supported by our friends and family and oh, how much have we needed that support! They are not letting us face trouble alone and for that we are most grateful. The gift of time given to us by so many people… whether to drive us, sit with us, message us, call us, check up on us, or running an errand for us… these gifts are beyond measure and we thank you all.

In the last few days, more tests have been done, each of them leading the doctors down the same path… towards the diagnosis of PCP Pneumonia. We are still waiting for the confirmation… cultures take a while to mature and reveal the specifics of the infection… but the doctors all seem fairly certain. As we wait, we take the time to digest the probable cause of this latest hospitalization. PCP. The one you don’t want to get.

Pneumocystis Pneumonia is caused by a fungus that everyone has within them. When you are immunosuppressed, this opportunistic fungus takes hold in the lungs and presents as pneumonia. The xrays show a fogginess in the entire lung. Or, like Rich, both. If not caught in time, it has a high mortality rate. We were lucky. Apparently face-planting can be a good thing!

The news that it might be this strain hits Rich hard. For the first time since our journey began, he’s expressed doubt that there will be a positive outcome. All the dire warnings we’ve had have come home to roost and he’s taken them to heart. We talk it through and turn this around. We won’t accept anything less than success. Haven’t since the beginning of this particular path a year ago. We reflect on healing thoughts, the blessings in our lives and the richness of our continued support of friends and family. We’re thankful for the successes we have and determine this is just one of those two steps backwards before the forward motion begins again. We have to fight against the side effects of the steroids… those damnable steroids that we so desperately need but that depress the adrenals and make it so hard to see the light.

Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

Rich has been on medications since September to forestall the development of this pneumonia but, as with everything, there is a failure rate. We just happen to fall into it. Our stem cell guru has said to us that this has been a very hard winter for many patients on this floor. More infections seem to be popping up. The flu strains mutated. It is indeed a tough winter.

As Frodo says, “We’re going on a bit too fast. You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: ‘Shut the book now, dad; we don’t want to read any more.’”

We too are a little tired of this part of the story but we’re not quite ready to shut the book!

We’re reminded time and again that this will be a slow recovery and we need to have patience. We are where we need to be and each day the doctors see improvement. The sounds of his breathing have quieted so we do see that change. But the breathlessness continues each day making any attempts at walking, even with oxygen, difficult at best. We resolve to make concerted efforts to take small walks, even around the room, to stay active. Our plan is to make small goals that are attainable for each day. And to dig deep and find more patience. Like Tolkein’s Ents, those treelike beings that are so long lived that they seem to stand still in their slowness, we must not be hasty!

Sam: “By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. ” Frodo:” What are we holding on to Sam? ” Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for. ”


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