When the call came that I would be given a chance for a second lung transplant, my reaction was not one that most people would expect. I was in a state of pure distress. I had been planning my death for months and months. I had said goodbye to so many of the people I loved. I was ready, no excited, for the day I would leave here and see what waits for us on the other side. This news that I may have a chance at life threw a real wrench in the works.
To make it more complicated, there was absolutely no way to know if I would actually make it to the transplant. This meant that what had gone from a definite, I would die in the coming months, had gone to a complete unknown. I might get the surgery and live or I might die before any organs became available. It was about a 50/50 chance. This put me in a very uncomfortable position and I felt lost. I didn’t know what to hope for anymore. I didn’t know how to pray. I didn’t know if I should continue to eat what I wanted (one of the best parts about dying!) or go back to a healthier diet. I didn’t know if I should stop buying the “skinny sick” clothes and wait for the day when I had put on a few pounds. My concerns ranged from serious spiritual dilemmas to the mundane. I was confused. I called this feeling “splitting the rails”.
I know many people face this in many different ways. When people have cancer and begin chemo, there is no way to know if it will work and they will be healthy again or if it won’t and the cancer will take over. When people prepare for major surgeries, they know they have a chance of the body being fixed or the body collapsing under the weight of such extensive measures. In so many different ways modern medicine brings us into the dilemma of the unknown future.
Ultimately, finding peace with this situation was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I actually found myself wishing that I had never had the opportunity for another transplant. Planning my death was so much easier than planning for life and death simultaneously. But, in the end, that is what I had to do. I had made my peace with the end and now I had to make my peace with a new beginning. The only way to this was to love both of my options equally.
I had to plan for both possibilities equally, as well. I continued to plan my funeral and say my last words. At the same time, I dreamed about all the things I would do once I was well. The image I used was that I was packing two suitcases for two destinations. One was in the cold North East and one was in sunny
It took work and many tears but I finally found myself in a place where I was thrilled with both options. I had both bags packed and waited for my tickets to arrive. This time, obviously, my ticket was for another trip to the OR. Looking back, I can see that this was the greatest lesson in balance I could have ever received.