Friday, June 25, 2010

I may not be invincible, but I'm still here!

Time flies when you're having fun.

And when you're NOT having fun.

Nathan and I had a fabulous vacation. I enjoyed every minute of it. I met some wonderful people and learned a lot about myself.

The problem was I got off that cruise ship with a nasty cough. I didn't mess around with it. We drove home from Tampa on Sunday, June 6th; I went to the doctor the very next morning. The diagnosis: bronchitis and reactive airway disease. The treatment: a course of antibiotics and an inhaler.

Unfortunately, a week later, I was still coughing and wheezing and feeling weaker by the day. So I went back to the doctor. Suspecting pneumonia, she sent me for a chest x-ray, gave me an injection of antibiotics and a new inhaler, and suggested that I take a few days off work.

It was a good idea. But my students' spring piano recital was scheduled for Saturday, June 19th. Canceling lessons was not an option. I vowed to do nothing but sleep and teach.

I hit bottom on Tuesday night. Near the end of a piano lesson, I started coughing maniacally. I couldn't stop. I couldn't speak. My student, a rising sophomore in high school, was very concerned. With big eyes, she asked, "Are you okay, Ms. Pam?"

I shook my head no. Then I couldn't catch my breath. I had never had that experience before. It was very frightening. I didn't know what to do. Call 911? I thought, "I am going to end up in the hospital, after all. Who can I ask to take my place in the recitals on Saturday?" No names came to mind. I kept trying to breathe.

I had no choice but to end the lesson. I walked with my student into the waiting room and attempted to communicate to her mother what was happening. (As if it weren't obvious.) Providentially, my next student had arrived a few minutes early. She is an adult student, a physician's assistant, and she had the presence of mind to ask me if I had an inhaler. I ran upstairs, took a couple of hits, and felt better. Within half an hour, I was breathing normally and the cough had subsided considerably.

But my student insisted on calling my doctor and advocating for me. I had been having trouble sleeping because my cough was keeping me awake; as a result, it was all I could do to teach so many hours at a stretch. The next thing I knew, I had prescriptions for cough syrup with codeine and prednisone waiting for me at the pharmacy. That night, I slept well for the first time in days; on Wednesday, I felt like I turned the proverbial corner. I was able to teach through the end of the week, carry on with the recitals on Saturday - my students played beautifully - and I have felt stronger day by day ever since.

I am not one hundred percent well. I still have chest congestion and a residual cough, and my energy level, although improving, is WAY down. I miss being outdoors, but the heat and humidity make it hard to breathe; I miss going to the gym, but I'm obviously not ready for that yet, either.

In the middle of everything, I went to see the dermatologist for a "full body check up." Without any prompting, he zeroed right in on the one mole I was concerned about. Located on my right abdomen, it had enlarged and was darkening. Of course, he removed it; the biopsy revealed it to be "precancerous," and the issue is considered to be resolved. But his parting words to me were, "Use caution in the sun. You have great olive skin. But you're not invincible."

According to my primary care physician, the only cure for what ails me is fluids and rest. So I am keeping my giant thermal coffee mug filled with ice water, and since yesterday was my last day of teaching until school starts again in August, taking a few days off is actually an option. I am finally ready to admit that I need to rein myself in a little - to pace myself better, to work (or play) when I have energy, to rest when I don't. Maybe my dermatologist is right.

So now you know where I've been. Thanks to each of you who noticed my absence and who actually missed my blog. Please check in often over the next several days - for tales of shipboard fun, island adventure, musical milestones, friendship and family.

I still have a lot of 'splainin' to do.