Ten-Week Update

Over the past two months, I have been recovering from a 3-week stay in the hospital for lung infections due to some pretty serious bugs which are tough to treat. I also ended up with a blood infection, and my kidneys suffered some damage from the strong antibiotics I had to take via IV.

When I first came home – for the first time on home oxygen – I was not prepared for how difficult the recovery journey would take.

The ride home from hospital

I had lost significant muscle tone and overall physical strength. I had sapped most of my reserves of hope that I would ever be “well enough” again. I was also on 2L oxygen 24/7.
It was through sheer stubborness, plenty of crying sessions, dozens of prayers for healing and courage, that mentally, I could get through this experience.

Physically – well – we are not quite there yet. The good news is that I only need Oxygen for extreme exertion (such as going grocery shopping, driving, etc.), I don’t need my husband’s help to shower, and I can now cook a few days a week.

I just began driving about 2 weeks ago – my upper body strength wasn’t much to begin with, but one morning, I decided that I was going to run errands by myself. Good thing I brought along the portable O2 concentrator because I ended up having to sit on the floor at the store to rest. But I made it to the pharmacy as well, and carried in and put away all my purchases. It took 2 days to recover, but it began getting the ball rolling.


I actually felt well enough to celebrate Easter and Mother’s day – holidays that fall into one of the times of year that I am sickest.

Mother’s Day with one of my Godsons

The best medicine – one of my cats!

Ken and I at Easter…a rare sunshiny day! My rock!

Unfortunately, I have had to miss some other important family events due to my chronic issues and how strong/not strong enough I felt on those days, which were very difficult. And my CF is trying to take me down again with some very unpleasant belly problems. But my doctor is on top of it and trying to keep me out of the hospital

As spring turns into summer, I hope to enjoy life more, and maybe even have some energy left to enjoy friends!!!! Wouldn’t that be wonderful???

I have to say, if it weren’t for Facebook, I would not have the support and encouragement that I have. Even though I don’t much get to see friends, those who really care have made themselves known. Prayers, memes to make me laugh, cards, care packages, letters – the love behind it all empowers me to keep pushing, to keep fighting.
There are so many people I want to thank, and cannot possibly type that long right now, but you know who you are.

Remember that the smallest victories can make the biggest impacts!

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Ask Me Anything!

Are you curious about somethinng in particular regardig Cystic Fibrosis?

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to experience a certain test or treatment?

Do you have any questions about living with a chronic illness?

If so, I am opening up my blog for the next week or two and will be collecting questions and trying to answer them.

Please note that I am not a doctor, cannot make diagnoses, or suggest medical treatment, but I can share my personal experiences.

So if there is something you want to know about me and/or Cyatic Fibrosis, please leave your question(s) in the comment section and I will do my best to answer them.

I am lookong forward to hearing from you!

~ Toni V 

Climbing back up the Mountain

I was discharged from the hospital 10 days ago, after nearly 3 weeks of intense antibiotic and airway therapy for a lung exacerbation due to Cystic Fibrosis.

It was the sickest I have ever been in my entire life – and I have had some doozies over the past several decades.

And it isn’t over yet. 

Since coming home, I had to get used to being on oxygen full-time. I am hoping and praying that I will not need it indefinitely, and that it is just a matter of recovery. But in the meantime, I depend on a machine to create the O2 and recieve it via a nasal cannula.

At home, I am attached to this…


But we bit the bullet and decided to get a portable Oxygen concentrator to allow me to leave the house without those heavy canisters. It runs on electricity and batteries, and when fully charged, lasts 8-9 hours (based on the amount of oxygen I need right now).


With batteries, it is about 7 pounds. It seems a whole lot better than worrying about filling canisters and having enough around.

I do have a giant canister that lasts about 6 hours, in case of power outage, sitting in the corner just in case. 


I have some more tests to get done this week and will see my CF doctors next week to see how my lungs and kidneys are doing. As soon as my creatine levels are back in a healthy range, I am going back on inhaled Coliston (the last resort antibiotic) for a month or so, to try to keep one particular bug from blowing up again.

My priorities now are getting stronger, trying to regain some of the 8 pounds I lost, keeping my lungs as clear as possible, resting, and tryig to do some “normal” things. Folding laundry, fixing a meal, walking to and from the kitchen to keep my water bottle filled…seriously, I have to super hydrate, so I fill it up every hour or so.

Then there is the very important task of reorienting my kitties to a mommy-ruled domicile. Daddy has a tendency to spoil them when I am not around! I admit that it has been hard not to spoil them since I came home – I missed them so much!!

I am also dealing with a lot of conflicting feelings – gratitude over my recovery, fear about how sick I was, dread that this isn’t the worst I will face, but joy that right now, I feel safe and relatively comfortable.

I just have to remind myself from where I’ve traveled. And that my husband and family are here to help me along this journey.

Where do I go from here?

NOTE: There is a medical photo of an IV that may upset some readers. If thhis makes you uncomfortable, please do not continue.

Wow, where do I begin?

I am at the end of day 12 in the hospital. I knew that it was coming, my doctors have been trying to get me back in here since November because my infections kept flaring up.

First few days…most of which I do not remember

It’s always hard to tell when to pull the trigger and make the decision to come into the hospital and go on IV antibiotics.

Two and a half weeks ago, however, this flareup came on fast and furiously, and it was the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bugs that were in charge this time. These are the big bad bugs that I can no longer treat with oral antibiotics. So I have to go on at least two IV antibiotics for those strains, as well as an additional IV antibiotic to treat my MRSA.

Since my last hospitalization in September, I had been on oral antibiotics for my MRSA almost consistently. And now, everyone else wanted to come out to play.

When I was admitted, my inflammation levels were the worst that I have ever experienced. It freaked out my medical team. 

There is a number that they look at that can measure information, called C Reactive Protein. 

Normal range is 0 to 10. When I was admitted, I was at 156. Twelve days later, it is finally in the 20s. Getting closer.

Typically, after the first few days of antibiotics, I start to show some progress, but my numbers really weren’t going down. So my doctors repeated tests on my bugs, which basically involves me coughing up mucous and then putting it in a petri dish to grow it and see which anabiotics kill it. 

It turned out that one of them was now resistant to one of the medications I had been taking for an entire week. So they had to start a new medication for me, one that I have only had once in the past, but I had it via nebulizer, inhaling it instead of receiving it in my vein.

So I had a new drug added to my cocktail, and stopped the one that wasn’t helping.

Colliston is an old antibiotic that is rarely used these days because of its effects on the kidneys and how hard it is on the body. However, it is the only antibiotic to which one of my bugs will respond. It is a last resort.

My “jetpack” – the unit attached to the wites attached to me, monitoring my heart

 

The good news is that it started to work, the bad news is that it’s affecting my heart. So I had to stop taking a bunch of other medications that can cause the same heart injury, which sucks because they control a lot of the more unpleasant side effects of heavy duty IV antibiotics.

I also came into the hospital with a possible blood infection. I have had three series of double blood cultures and it appears to have subsided thanks to one of the IV antibiotics that also treats my MRSA. There’s a possibility that perhaps I did not have a blood infection and that one of the blood samples was simply contaminated, but they cannot take that chance and not follow protocol to the end.

So here I am…typically I would be close to discharge around The two week mark, but my doctors have shared that this is not going to resolve as quickly and smoothly as my other flareups.

PICC line with double lumen, so I can receive two medications at the same time

I am facing additional time with my PICC line, which makes me nervous because I have had three separate blood clots as a result of picklines over the years. It’s also very uncomfortable and limits a lot of things including the way I sleep, using my arm, etc.

I have also been on oxygen and might not be off of the oxygen when I leave, whenever that is. I am trying to wrap my head around the fact that I might have to go home on 24/7 oxygen. Hopefully it would be temporary, but with CF, you never know what’s going to happen.

In my head, I realize how very very sick I am – how sick I was – and how far I have to go in order for my lung function to increase. But my emotions have been riding a roller coaster that has not stopped since before I was admitted.

Yes, my inflammation numbers are going down. I am feeling a little bit stronger each day, and I actually was able to start walking in the hallways again. But I’m dragging my IV pole, my oxygen tank, wearing a heart telemetry monitor, and taking very small, very calculated steps.

This is not how I imagined progression of cystic fibrosis.

I have felt things that I’ve never felt before. Physical symptoms. Fears. Abject uncertainty.

I am 45 years old and I have cystic fibrosis. According to all of the statistics, I really shouldn’t even be alive. Perhaps that’s what’s making this harder, having beat the odds for so long and feeling confident about that, and now feeling so vulnerable and fragile.

It breaks my heart that my husband has to see me go through this and feel helpless. It hurts that I am more of a patient then a partner at this point in our lives together. I hate that my niece is a nephews have to see me so weak. I hate that my mother cries because she feels guilty for passing on this gene to me. And now that my sisters have had to help bathe me because I could not do so myself.

But on the other hand, I am more grateful for every breath that I do have. I have felt love with my husband that carried me in the most desperate moments I’ve ever experienced. I have also opened up and let my family see me vulnerable and allow them to help me. I have also allowed myself to ask for prayers and positive thoughts online. Are used to be embarrassed and felt like I was throwing a pity party, but I realize that shared experiences are why God put us on the earth together. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not thankful for cystic fibrosis in any way, shape, or form. But I am thankful to God for every joyful moment.

I am offering my struggle to God as my penance during this Lenten season. I usually don’t talk a lot about my faith, but I know that I am still here for a reason and that God is not done with me yet. I pray for strength, courage, grace, and to still think of others, even when I’m hurting. 

I apologize for the babbling nature of this post, but there’s just so much that I needed to share. I don’t know where this path will take me in the coming days and weeks and months. I have to be patient and take each moment as it happens.

Thank you for spending your time reading my story.

Random Thoughts on Living with Cystic Fibrosis

I dream of feeling free, to engage myself with all that I see.

I dream of taking steps that lead further than my own front yard.

I dream of laughing without choking, and singing or dancing without coughing.

I dream of waking up each morning and bounding out of bed, and just taking off, somewhere, anywhere.

I still remember how it used to be when I could dance without gasping for air or my heart feeling like it was going to explode… times when my heart raced out of excitement and joy versus out of desperation to support my lungs with the oxygen they need.

It wasn’t too long ago that I had bigger accomplishments each day than simply walking up the stairs or taking a shower.

I no longer sing made-up songs about the cats or the weather or anything else that tickles my fancy, because I can’t spare the oxygen.  

I no longer dance when I hear my favorite songs, because that, too, requires my very precious oxygen. 

Instead, I shake my hands and shoulders with as much energy as I can afford to give to them.
I cannot laugh easily anymore. It robs me of my breath.

I work hard to strengthen my muscles so that they can take on some of the effort when I’m doing something strenuous like folding laundry or walking up the stairs or taking a shower.

I have to monitor my oxygen levels when I eat, because even a partially full stomach can make it hard for me to breathe.

Why has God taken my ability to dance, sing or laugh?

Today I am having a hard time seeing the glass as half-full. We, as humans, have the gift of such pleasures, and I feel robbed.

Creating Magic

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, if we are to follow the messages bombarding us from television commercials, festive songs, and colorful decorations.

But for many people, the holidays bring out a lot of things that are not right in our lives.

It could be the recent loss of a loved one, or the lack of finances to buy gifts that you want to get for people, or struggles with your personal belief systems, conditions such as depression or anxiety, and in my case, chronic illness.

As I’ve been pretty sick and spend a lot of time doing my respiratory Vest treatments, I end up watching a lot of television because the shaking from my vest machine makes it difficult to read or write or do anything else that requires a steady hand or steady eyes.

And I kept thinking that I still hadn’t found a gift for my husband that would give him that “WOW! this is amazing” moment that we see happen in commercials and movies and television and advertising. It’s a pretty seductive desire, the feeling of making someone so happy by simply opening a brightly wrapped box.

But that almost never happens in real life, does it?
And before allowing myself to feel like a failure, I realized how much commercialism has conditioned me to think that in order to be a good wife or sister or aunt or daughter, I have to create these moments.

But the magic doesn’t come in a box. The magic comes from our hearts’ desires to make someone happy. How many times have you made someone’s day just because they called you or texted you? How something as simple as someone opening a door for you, can make you feel that there are good people in this world who care about others with no expectation of getting anything in return?

As I have been sick constantly since August, I had to tame down any of those conditioned expectations that I was going to make someone’s world with a simple gift that I had wrapped in pretty paper and a colored bow. 

I realized that the magic that I can provide is to be able to participate in our family Christmas celebration. There have been some holidays I spent in the hospital. There’ve been some holidays when I was too sick to travel. And more lately, there are holidays when I have to save up all my energy for a week to just go “out” for two hours.

But in those two hours, I soak up every smile, every laugh, every moment that I can. Because even if I can’t last more than a few hours, the magic is in connecting with those we love. 

So whatever you have to celebrate during this time of year, remember that the biggest gift that you could give someone is a piece of your heart.


These are the people who keep me going. These are the reasons I continue to fight. And these are the pieces of my heart.

Relinquishing Control in the Hospital

I just received a letter in the mail which included a six-page questionnaire about the care I received while in the hospital for 2 weeks in September.

They ask questions about the care I received, the hospital environment, my hospital experiences, tests and treatments, etc.

I am under no delusion that my care is very complex. At home, I manage 15-20 medications, test and monitor my blood sugar for diabetes, and perform airway clearance (lung therapy). It’s not just a matter of taking a bunch of pills each day. Many of them have to be taken at specific times, in relation to waking up, eating, performing certain activities (like driving), avoiding potential interactions, managing treatment side effects, etc.

So when I’m admitted to the hospital, I have to turn in all control to a series of more than a handful of different departments to manage.

Every hospitalization is a challenging experience. I’m awakened early (sometimes 4am) to get blood taken, doctors from 3 or 4 different specialties visit me daily, each asking all of the same questions, poking and prodding me according to their focus. I feel like I have to give up agency over my own body. I succumb to the authority and power of mostly strangers. Continue reading