Birthday Greetings

I’ve been dealing with an illness for 9 months.  That’s not so unusual. We all get sick and many deal with long-term treatment for high cholesterol or diabetes or high blood-pressure etc.  It’s no big deal for most folks over the age of 50 and many in their 30 and 40s.  So what!

Well, my illness just happens to be in my lungs.  Lungs are an under-valued organ. We get all excited about the heart but rarely give a second thought to how important our lungs are. At least, I always did – until they stopped working correctly. Suddenly I woke up one morning, took a deep breath and my world changed forever.

It took 4 months to diagnose the problem. It has an impressive name: Non-specific Interstitial pneumonitis. NSIP.  It is rare. It is serious. (all lung diseases are serious, life-shortening stuff) I’ve spent the next 5 months treating the disease.  It is one of the few lung diseases that can be treated and even cured.  There is only one medicine that is effective – prednisone.  It is nasty stuff!  I’ve been on an aggressive regimen of steroids with a myriad of side effects that make me wonder which is worse, the illness or the cure.

Good news:  I am getting off the steroids!  Yeah!  I will no longer be dealing with the muscle weakness, headaches, insomnia and mood swings.  This is a good thing!

Bad news:  The medicine has not cured anything.  NSIP is still attacking my lungs.  It seems to be stable for now.  It’s not getting better.  It’s not getting worse (today).  It will get worse and one day I will wake up and find myself in a sudden, irreversible decline leading to my death. My life expectancy is 6-10 years.  That’s what the doctor says.

This week is my birthday.  I am 55. That means AARP likes me. (I don’t like them) It means I am definitely “middle-age”.  It also means that I got a birthday present from my doctor; a prescription for a handicap sticker for my car.  Whoohoo!  I am handicap.  I am disabled. I am terminal.  All of these labels are accurate.  Harsh but true.

I am also a child of God, a servant of Jesus Christ. This label is also accurate and true. This means that my days are ordered and guided by Him.  He has determined the days of my life and regardless of my disease or any other circumstance of life  I will breathe my last breath when He says it’s time – not one day earlier than this.  My life is in His hands.  It was before my lungs began to fail.  It still is.

So… we get on with living life – full and filled with fun and purpose and lots of love.  I just can’t do any strenuous activities anymore.  I never liked strenuous. I no longer can do what I didn’t want to do in the first place.  Happy Birthday to me.  I now have a reason to be sedentary.

As a minister I was given the opportunity to opt out of Social Security.  I haven’t paid into that system for several years. This is a good thing because I am clearly never going to draw a dime from the program. I’m probably dying before I reach 65. The 15 years of payments I made to the system prior to opting out will be my contribution to the general good. But the rest of my retirement funds are not controlled or owned by the government and will be passed on to my children.  I no longer need to be concerned about putting away more money for my retirement. That’s a good thing.  Happy Birthday.

I am actively involved in building a new church; I am a newlywed actively involved in loving my new husband; I am a mom and a sister, a friend and a grandma.  All these labels are accurate and true.  Happy Birthday!

Everyone of us have both good and bad in our lives.  Positive and negative truths exist side by side.  What determines the quality of our life is not the good or the bad. It is which one we will focus on that determines our general happiness. So… though I have shed a tear or two about my disease…(it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!) I find myself happy and contented with my daily life.  I’m good.  My relationships are good.  My life in Christ secure.  It’s all good. Happy Birthday to me!



About Karen Lavrack

Karen Lavrack is a pastor and writer starting a new life in Holland Michigan with her new husband, Ron. She writes about the joys and challenges of starting over.
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