A Blueprint For Tackling The Transplant Process

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Lara Govendo

April is Donate Life month. Raising awareness for organ donation has become one of my new life goals. Before this year, it was just another month to me. Yes, I knew about donate life. No, it didn’t affect me personally.

Being on the other side of a double lung transplant, I’ve learned life lessons I never anticipated. How do you measure the impact of the most drastic life change possible? Ok, there are obviously other big ones out there, but waking up after a nine-hour surgery with the ability to breathe after never having taken an easy breath devoid of congestion seems to be a decent-sized change.

In the eight months since I’ve had the transplant, it’s been the most difficult season of my life. After living my life one way for thirty years, now I’m figuring out what it means to live a completely different lifestyle. I have been incredibly blessed to have dear friends & family who have spoken into my life throughout this whole process and have held my hand every step of the way. Encouraging me. Pushing me. Praying for me. Loving me. Fighting right along side of me.

The thing that we humans tend not to understand is that even though we have the same experiences, we have vastly different perspectives. Nobody can fully prepare you for the road you’re about to travel on. It’s something that you must figure out for your own personal journey. That is both terrifying and beautiful at the same time.

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s knowing the necessary steps I need to take for developing strong mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It’s undeniable that these are key factors that directly relate to your success. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my thirty-one years of experience with this disease is, if that trifecta is on point, then anything physical is easy, doable, and can be conquered. That’s just the truth.

Here are some simple solutions for building strength in these areas before diving headfirst into the transplant process. Actually, these apply to just about anyone going through a life change that can be scary, intimidating, or overwhelming…

Find your purpose: Ancient wisdom has taught us that a person without a vision will perish. If your WHY isn’t worth fighting for, you will give up the moment things get “too hard.” Get clear about your vision and it will pull you through the seemingly impossible times.

Cut your losses: this is a critical time for your focus. You can’t allow anyone or anything to derail you. Recognize toxic ties and cut them out of your life. You can’t afford to waste your energy, time, or breath on those things that suck the life out of you. If they’re not adding to your life, they have no business taking up residency. It’s just not worth it. YOU are worth it.

Make no apologies for cutting these ties. Self-preservation is imperative so that you can put your energy into what is important. Especially in this process, you need undivided attention, no insignificant distractions.

Time: With CF, it’s always felt like we’re running this impossible race against the clock. The truth is, everyone’s time is precious. Some of us may have a few more odds stacked against us, but ultimately nobody knows when their time is up on this earth. And none of us know what will kill us. We are all only granted this moment. Use your time wisely. Don’t waste it.

Faith: Believe with all your heart in the impossible and do not doubt. Cling to your faith. It doesn’t matter if God is the root of your belief, we all have faith in something or someone. Having faith in the positive outcome of our circumstances is essential for our success.

Stay positive: Sometimes it’s so difficult. And other times it feels impossible. How can you be positive when your world is crumbling down around you? When you keep getting sicker and you can’t catch a break? It’s in these times where you have to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.

Mind: Pay attention to what you feed your mind. What goes in, comes out. This applies to the music you listen to, the shows/movies you watch, the games you play, the people you pay attention to. Who is influencing your life? Do you like the results? Make sure you are feeding your mind with positive, uplifting, motivating words of life that align with your goals.

Find your source of strength: Mine happens to be God. He keeps me rooted in truth, breaks off the lies of statistics, and declares me able in His strength. This will carry you in the moments where you cannot even stand on your own two feet.

No excuses: You can’t make it a choice. You just have to DO. If you allow your mind to weaken, you won’t make it. If you say you can’t do it, you’ll give up and your feet will follow what you say.

Let em out: Allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling is essential to this process. Bottling your emotions and pretending that everything is all sunshine and butterflies will only delay your well-being. We all need to cry. Throw a pity party. Wallow in defeat. You just can’t pitch a tent there. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and charge on.

Humor: You have two choices when the storms of life encompass you – you can either laugh or cry. 92% of the time, I choose to laugh. It’s comical how sometimes everything goes wrong. And the irony of things that CFers have endured, it’s just funny because it’s so ridiculous sometimes. Laughter really is the best medicine.

Step up to the plate: Educate yourself as much as possible about the process. Advocate for your individual needs until they are met. Communicate to all medical professionals involved in an effective manner what your specific accommodations are.

Surrender: This is the toughest lesson I’ve ever learned. I don’t know what this will look like for you… but, in the moment where I was on 55 liters of oxygen, walking five feet felt like a marathon, and I couldn’t even go to the bathroom by myself… I had two choices. I could either white-knuckle the control that I didn’t have OR I could surrender to the fact that God is in control, rest in His presence, and allow Him to do what only He can do. I was doing my part, and that was enough. Belief and action is faith activated. This is the only way I could experience peace, joy, and even laughter when my entire world had shifted to a new reality, a new normal, a new stage in my disease process. All we have control over are our thoughts, words, and actions. The moment we learn this, is the moment of pure freedom.

Remember: This is only for a season. Allow yourself to rest in the knowledge that better days are coming. Recognize the stage of life that you’re in, and look for the lessons to be learned during this time. This is a prime time opportunity for radical growth and refinement if you are open to it.

Heart check: This is not a competition. It doesn’t matter if it appears that someone else has it “easier” than you do. We all have something that we are dealing with. Comparing your situation to others will only get you off track. Don’t minimize others’ struggles or magnify your own – develop a victor mentality, not a victim. You can conquer this! If you look around you, there is always someone that has it worse than you do. Guaranteed.

Gratitude: This will shift your mindset quickly when you are in a funk. Recalling out loud at least five things that you are grateful for in this moment will allow peace to wash over you. There is always something to be grateful for. Simple baby steps… here’s five quick ones – you are alive. You are breathing. You have a roof over your head. Food in your belly. And you have the ability to smile, which is a gift in and of itself.

Check yourself: Your thoughts become your words, which become your actions. Whatever you say, you will do. If you say you can’t, your body will follow those orders. If you say that you can, your body will walk in that way. Choose your path and speak to it.

Hope: Keeping this alive is the hardest part of the battle. Once conquered, you are unstoppable. This is literally what got me through. Not for one moment did I doubt that I would be ok. I believed with everything that I am in my restored health. It changes your attitude and sets forth in motion an unbelievable endurance when it doesn’t even make sense. Miracles happen every day.

Work hard: This is your one wild & precious life – you have to fight for it! Do whatever it takes to get it done. Force yourself out of bed even if you haven’t slept all night. Exercise. Eat healthy. Be consistent. Dedicate the time. Do your treatments. Take your meds. Compliance is your friend. Your mind will be at ease when you know that you have done everything that you can on your part. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I started running again two months before transplant on six liters of oxygen, toting a cart behind me as I ran. You can do it, too.

Keep going: Even when it feels impossible. In the times where you just don’t know how your body will take one more antibiotic running through your veins, every single breath is labor intensive, or one more setback when you’ve worked your butt off to get the point that you’re at…
Just. Keep. Going.

People: Surround yourself with those who lift your spirits. Who support, encourage, and love you during the storms of life. The ones who never leave your side. Who call, message, and show up for you. Who pray for you continuously. Prove that you are not in this fight alone. They are rare treasures, cling to them for dear life. It takes a village…none of us can get through this life alone. Make sure your people are good ones. And seek out those who have been where you are – it makes the journey more bearable when you have comradery.

Love: Can literally move mountains. It is the most powerful force that we have been gifted in this life. It had incredible healing capabilities. Be filled with its impeccable power. And you’ll find that when you give it to others, it lifts you in the process. Just a simple necessity of life.

Keep your eyes on the prize: Remind yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Focus on your goal. Create tunnel vision. Discard anything or anyone that gets in the way. Choose your thoughts every morning. Decide what kind of day you will have. You have more control over that than you think. And always remember, that you are not alone. And you are so deeply loved.

Ultimately, this is your journey. Decide what it will look like for you. THAT is in your power. Make the most out of it. Learn what you need to. Carry the lessons with you. Once you are transplanted, your entire life will change. It’s a bittersweet moment. My life pre-transplant was rich and wonderful. I met incredible people that I only met as a direct result of having CF. These people have become my closest friends. Family, really. With this new life, the possibilities are endless. New doors and avenues are opening that I’ve only dreamt of. It’s wild! I’ve allowed this process to change me in the most beautiful of ways.

Because some selfless soul said YES to Organ Donation, I have been granted a second chance at life. And it is the greatest gift I have ever received!

 

 

 

Lara is 31 years young and resides in Vermont. She has Cystic Fibrosis and received a double lung transplant in August 2017. A beacon of light for the existence of miracles; Lara enjoys adventures, nature, and belly laughs with her loves. She believes Jesus walks and pants are the devil. Passionate about spreading encouragement, she always lends an ear to those in need.
Follow Lara here: www.facebook.com/Lungs4Lovey

 

 

 

 

                                                     Help Others Live STRONGER and LONGER- 

                                                       

 

***Views expressed in the CFLF Blog are those of the bloggers themselves and not necessarily of the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation*** 

***Please speak with your physician before making any changes to your CF management***

 

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