The appropriately named sunfish rolled lazily at the surface. Just like me, it was greedily soaking up every possible ray of the warm spring sun. This walk down to the lake near my house was turning out much better than the last one.
On that last trip I had walked through the woods in slow motion. When I got to the lake I could only lay on the earth and close my eyes. I was more than a bit nervous I wouldn’t be able to walk back to the house. The conclusion was unnerving, but at least it was a decision. I would have to call the doctors and follow whatever they suggested.
I have a genetic disease called Cystic Fibrosis. It doesn’t make me look visibly different; people can’t see it. I’m taller than I’m supposed to be. Importantly, I’m also older than I’m supposed to be! Advances in research and medicines have kept me clinging to the lower end of the normal range for weight and even lung function. It’s heartening that there are now adult CF clinics like the one I rely on at Mass General, as people born with CF nowadays have a much better prognosis than the 14 years in my initial forecast. I also have four decades of practice acting normal, even to myself. Only my family isn’t fooled.
My wonderful wife had brought her fly rod along on this walk; I believed her that she brought it for her to fish. She had really brought it to stick it in my hand and watch for a spark in my eye and a “fishing smile” that would confirm her husband was still hiding inside. Thus duped, I laid out some line and soon came tight to a pretty little sunfish who had also been fooled momentarily when it took the fly. Now this was proper medicine. A city hospital room with its beeping, concrete, plastic, and machines provides no nourishment for the soul. The trees, water, and sunlight were a powerful cocktail to rival the roughly seven grams a day of IV antibiotics.
The radiologist’s read of an X-ray taken on the first morning at the hospital read: “New, right, lower-lobe pneumonia.” There it was. A single objective sentence in black and white, cutting through the subjective feelings of tiredness, progressive malaise, and lack of energy. So that was why it felt like there was a wet sponge stuck in my lung. Having a chronic disease can sometimes leave you without a defined opponent to focus your energy on. It’s like playing basketball against a team of ghosts with good ball movement. The five words from the radiologist at least framed an opponent and gave me something to focus my energy on. Okay, I know what this is. I can focus on recovering from that. Let’s do it.
So that’s what I’ve been doing this spring. I’m a little older and maybe a skosh wiser; hopefully my hospital stay came before the fishing plans I’ve made for this year. If I’m in good form to hunt down some nice trout I know I won’t be take that for granted. The sunfish and crappies at the lake near my house (and my wife) now have me turning the corner.
My right arm started to protest from the fly casting. I had lost the argument with the catheter team to place the line in my upper left arm. Previous placements had left the veins too worn out, and into my right casting arm it went. The IV line was not exactly fly casting friendly, although it was not preventing it either.
I smiled as I thought back to the time I experienced the best evening rise of my life on Pennsylvania’s Clarion River with two friends. I recalled feeling absolutely tuckered out from the IV meds that day but sticking it out and being literally surrounded by greedily rising trout at dusk. We each even caught a few. The guys helped haul me up a bank after it got too dark to see. Tough times still hold the potential for some of our fondest memories.
The peripherally inserted central catheter in my arm goes up through the shoulder and then follows a direct route to my heart to deliver concentrated medicine. Just like the fly line.
Here’s to the next hatch.