Fall Back, Spring Ahead

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.

Don’t worry, Doc: no fish slime on the PICC line!

18 thoughts on “Fall Back, Spring Ahead

  1. Very inspirational post, especially for these times! Thanks and hope you enjoy many tight lines this season and season’s to come!

      1. I’m so sorry to read of your struggles. I know what it’s like as I am struggling to deal with the longer term effects of my stroke 2 yrs ago with dizziness 24/7. Can’t get to the rivers for now but have hope. Keep the faith and have hope. Just being outdoors anywhere in the beauty of the spring is therapeutic.

        1. Thank you Bob, I wish you the best in the recovery from your stroke. If having a spotter might help get you back on the river please reach out to me or others if we can help. Lots of great people in this blog community!

          1. There sure are! Just watching the water and waves going past hammers meet right now! Almost knocks me off my feet. I don’t have to drink or do drugs to get buzzed. I just have to stand up quick.

  2. Hi Jamie, Glad you’re feeling somewhat better. I hope they get you back close to 100% real soon. I had been wondering how you’ve been doing as I hadn’t seen you post in a while. Kim and I will keep you (and your family) in our prayers. Continue to feel better Jamie. Hope your back on the river soon and great job on the sunfish. I’ll send you and email. sapidissima R in.

    1. Always great to hear from you Bob. Hopefully I’m breaking out of my writing and fishing drought. Hope you can keep using your retirement to meet as many fish as possible. I bet you’ve caught and released more fish than anyone I’ve ever met!

  3. Beautifully written, Jamie. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your world. Keep up the good fight.

  4. Everyone on this blog is nice, polite, and sane unlike a lot of social media and I appreciate that. Though I sometimes question my own sanity trying to get to that sweet spot in the middle of the river when I really shouldn’t be attempting it.

    1. That means a lot to me personally. We all have our bad days, but I think it is best to be positive and to help other anglers. Blogs can be vehicles for narcissism otherwise.

  5. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Jamie. I am dealing with MGH myself for what was recently discovered in me. I am totally impressed with them and have confidence in them. Keep fishing when you can. I will do same.

    Best, Sam

    1. Good luck with things Sam. The care at MGH was fantastic, even though I was scheming to get the heck out of there as soon as possible! We can’t control the cards we are dealt but we can try our best to react in ways that are productive! Be well.

  6. Yup, your “fishing smile” and positive attitude is back, and it seems to be contagious! Thank you BFF for being a BFF of sorts.

  7. You are awesome for sharing. I had a total knee replacement this past fall, which pales by comparison, to your situation. I’m heading out for the first time in almost 7 months this week, so a little nervous. You are an inspiration. Your wife is a saint. Best of luck.

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