Monday, February 7, 2011

Inquiring Minds

Hello, beautiful blog readers.

I'm sorry I haven't written in a while. After I get out of the hospital there's always a sort of "regrouping" that occurs -- time when I just kind of struggle to get back into the swing of normal (ahem, well, normal for me anyway) life and all that entails. I'm sure many of you out there know the drill as well as I do: there are new med schedules to synch up with whatever routine you already had, new prescriptions to fill and doctors to visit, new additions to your day like extra blood draws or physical therapy, weight to gain (yay for no more hospital food!), friends to call, emails from frantic relatives/coworkers/teachers/friends/friends-of-friends/cousins-of-friends/mailmen/etc to answer, and relationships to be renewed after your short "mini-vacation." Honestly, I sometimes think the time directly post-hospital is more difficult for me mentally (and sometimes physically) than the time spent actually IN the joint. Granted this is probably because I tend to be pretty harsh on myself and focus on whatever I'm NOT accomplishing rather than the things I AM, but still. The fact remains that life post-lockup is sometimes, shall we say, somewhat less than relaxing.

All of which is just to explain why I haven't managed yet to sit down and write a real, honest to goodness blog post in the past week or so. And, quite frankly, why I'm still not quite able to do that today. Yep, sorry guys. I don't have any health updates (see my doctor again tmw, actually) or news to share right now, so I decided to take the cheater's way out and do something I should have done a long time ago.

Answer your questions.

See, if you glance over to your left, you'll see a contact info section on the sidebar of this blog. A surprising number of you have not only found that little hidden treasure, but also used it, for which I am both grateful and (gotta be honest here) totally shocked. The number of you who want to talk to me about everything from your wonderful lives to, well, your breath (or lack thereof) is both humbling and really exciting, because I get to see for the first time the depth and diversity out there within our little CF community. So cool. Anyway, more to the point, many of you also include in your emails questions about me, my life, my health, and my "everything in between." I try my best to respond to everyone personally, but I also get a lot of repeat questions and some that are just too unique and creative not to share with the whole. So, without further ado, I bring you the first ever edition of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Me (And Weren't Afraid to Ask!). Enjoy!

Q: Alright poser, you talk a lot about being "from Colorado," but I've also heard you mention a whole bunch of other places that you also say you've lived. Where were you born, anyway? And did your moves have anything to do with your CF?
A: The simple answer is that I was born in Colorado Springs, CO (a city renowned for its beautiful views, Olympic Training Center, and a whole lot of military bases). My parents both have roots in TX and OK, though, so when I was young we did move to Houston for a short time, then moved back almost immediately. The return to CO was, so far as I know, the only move that was primarily driven by my health needs. Beyond that I have lived in Boston, Denver, Atlanta, and New York City. Through it all I was blessed to have great care primarily out of Children's Hospital of Denver.

Q: Your dog is super cute. What the heck is a "shorkie" anyway?
A: Shorkie is a fancy name for "mutt" in that it denotes a shih-tzu (sh) and yorkie (orki) mixed breed. Sampson was sold to me (yes, I admit that I bought my dog. I am not, it turns out, the most socially responsible person on the planet) as a shorkie. In retrospect, I think this is untrue. He looks waaaaay too much like a Lhasa Apso for me to be satisfied with the "shorkie" designation.

Q: If you had your whole transplant journey to do over, is there one thing you would change?
A: Wowza. Um, yeah. I mean, I think so. It's actually hard to say, because the result was so amazing and I'm one of those people who truly believes that events flow out of each other, so I'm not sure I would "change" anything for fear of disrupting the final outcome, if that makes any sense.

I will say this: my family had a very dark time right before my actual call for transplant. There's a blog post about it somewhere (look around June 9th or 10th in the archive), but basically we were confused and thought that we had actually been knocked down on the list. We went out to dinner and had this tearful convo where everyone kind of let loose, and it suddenly became very clear that we were all really struggling to hold it together. I wish, in retrospect, that we could have been more honest about all that before the night in question. I wish we hadn't lost the faith, even for those few hours. Because getting the call from that dinner table was hard, and I was beyond shaken up by it all. I really wanted to be more peaceful as I was wheeled into surgery -- as it was the whole experience (from the fight at dinner to the disorganized chaos at the hospital upon arrival) was rattling. Not so fun, and I wish my last memories of my old lungs were a little sweeter.

Q: What are your top three things to have in the hospital?
A: Easy: 1) my own pillow/blanket, 2) something that connects to the outside world (preferably computer, but phone works), and 3) my own snacks. Obviously this assumes you would bring your own comfy clothes as well, but if not sub out #1 for clothes. I hate sleeping on hospital bedding, but I'd rather do that than wear a gown all the time!

Q: What are you finding to be the hardest thing about post-tx life?
A: Right after surgery EVERYTHING was hard. When I first came home I couldn't walk much, couldn't focus attention on anything, and couldn't really muster up much enthusiasm even for things I really wanted to do. I hurt and was tired, and I cried A LOT (weird for me, for sure). I actually wondered if I had made such an awesome choice. All that changed about 4-5 weeks post-surgery, and then I felt great. Seriously, it was a total "welcome to the world" moment...I just woke up one morning ready to kick some proverbial butt. And yes, granted, it was more of a transition than that in real life (little accomplishments every day added up), but it really felt kind of like flicking a switch when I finally crossed that line. Now I feel very much like me, only better!

Q: OMG, Piper, I've been reading your blog and I can't make sense of any of this. You got a transplant! You should be healthy! Why were you in the hospital? Are you going to get out soon? Come one, be honest. I can handle the hard truth. I just need to know one thing: ARE YOU OKAY?!
A: Yikes. Okay, first, take a second and just breathe. The last thing I need is any of my wonderful breathheads passing out from worry over ME (especially since I know we all have so much of our own stuff to deal with). So just relax, and then trust me when I say the following message, which I mean with all my heart and which is 100% the truth as I know it.

I. Am. Perfectly. Fine.

Yes, I have infections and yes, I had to go to the hospital. The thing is, though, I felt fine going in, and now that the drugs are done I feel fine again. I need to get my sinuses checked out because they may be dripping into my lungs. I need to get my weight up a bit. I need to increase my WBC count and I need to STAY HEALTHY. Other than that, though, I'm golden. The hospital stay mostly consisted of meds; meds that they don't like to do at home because of their side effects and/or special administration requirements. But for all intents and purposes I checked into the hospital to: 1) start polymyxin, 2) desensitize my body to cephalosporins, and 3) complete an in-hospital treatment for a virus. Easy peasy, right?

Q: What made you start blogging?
A: Basically I wanted a place to tell people (mostly CF friends who don't live in NYC) about my transplant eval experience. I realized pretty quickly that I didn't have time to fill everyone in on everything individually, and I started the blog to kind of post updates and thoughts that were too long or silly to repeat over and over in 50 separate emails. This blog is basically my response to the mass email, because I hate those.

As it grew, I expanded the blog a bit to include more day-to-day CF/tx stuff. My original thought was that this would be a chronicle of working life with with CF -- particularly in a fast-paced professional atmosphere. I soon realized that 1) while I was working I had very little time for blogging anyway, and 2) I was getting sick so much by the time I started this blog that my posts were less about balance and more about how to find a lifeline when you're drowning. I left work in April, 2009 -- about 9 months after starting this blog. I still believe that it is 100% possible to find a good, fulfilling, healthy balance between work and CF. I think I did balance work and CF effectively (not, however, perfectly) for several years. By the time I started this blog, however, it was clear that I needed to start scaling back and focusing on transplant. I did work full-time until about one year before my transplant, however, and I'm proud of that.

Q: How many nicknames does your dog have anyway?
A: A LOT. The most common names used on this blog are Sampson, Sam, Sammy, Sam-man (also written The Sam-man), Sammybear, Puppybear, Bear (also written The Bear), and Bearcub. Other people in my household call him Sammy-lito and Bearser, while my friend Julia calls him "The Muff" (short for muffin, maybe?). My sister, I should note, calls Sammy "Samuel P. Samuelson" (the "P" apparently is for "puppy"). This is decidedly NOT Sam's name, and I tell her that frequently.

Interestingly, none of these reflect the actual name on his papers which is, I kid you not, SAMPHSON. Yeah, I was horrified too.

Q: Who is this sister we keep hearing about? Is she older than you, or younger?
A: Erin Beatty is a wonderful woman best known for her grace and talent in performing 2 different (but equally thrilling) jobs: 1) Designer for SUNO clothing line, and 2) Sister to Piper Beatty, blog goddess extraordinaire. More to the point, Erin is kind, lovely, fun, smart, and incredibly poised under pressure. She has more than once kept my entire family sane and she has great fashion sense. She also once thought the Dire Straits were singing "Money for nothing and your checks for free," which I believe shows her many hidden talents as a lyricist and/or advertising jingle writer. She is slightly less than 3 years older than I am, and is the world's best sister. I am definitely the president of her (very large) fan club.

Oh, yeah, and it's also her birthday today. Happy birthday, Erin!!

And there you have it: more about me, my dog, and my family than you could ever want, need, or even imagine. On the other hand, if any of you DO still have questions (about anything), please feel free to send them over to the blog email ( -- note that there is NO "a"). I don't promise to have all the answers, but I promise to give you my version of them, and that's the best I (or maybe any of us) can do.

Much love, beautiful people.