To paraphrase the legendary Tina Turner, “What’s hope got to do with it?” Everything. Life experience has taught me that. In some circles, hope is simply optimism, a belief in a positive outcome. My view is a certainty that, if we look for it, and if we’re willing, opportunity will offer the chance to help ourselves.
At certain moments in my life—if I hadn’t kept looking, if I hadn’t been willing to make the effort, I’d be dead.
My Biggest Test
I became ill in 2009 in Wyoming and the doctors bungled my care. In retrospect, I know I had a bacterial infection linked to undiagnosed Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. If they’d given me antibiotics, the next eight years wouldn’t have happened.
Instead, they treated the wrong illness and sent me to a psychiatrist when I insisted they were wrong. I ended up in the ICU. After, they overdosed me on Prednisone for six weeks, then placed me in a facility when I went manic. I escaped when someone realized the error.
My health worsened. I couldn’t walk unassisted and needed continual oxygen. A local pulmonologist told me nothing could be done.
Hope remained, then: opportunity.
I visited the doctors in Denver, Colorado at National Jewish Hospital. They saved me and I recovered through 2011—minus a third of my lung capacity.
My daily care, though, returned to a different Wyoming pulmonologist and in 2012 I relapsed. A roller coaster ensued that was a few months well, then six months sick and on oxygen.
I made my next opportunity when I anticipated a wellness period and escaped to Montana in early 2014.
Keep in mind, that even at the best of times I flirted with oxygen deprivation in Montana because I refused oxygen. Instead, I went through doctors for two years seeking a pulmonologist referral. On the brink of hospitalization in 2016, I received it.
I was helped into Dr. Bekemeyer’s office in January 2017 where I sobbed after his first question.
Why aren’t you on an inhaler?
I explained that they’d told me in Wyoming it wouldn’t help. I also told him I’d spent eight years begging everyone for a treatment that’d take me off the illness-wellness roller coaster.
Always professional, there was real anger behind his gaze. He told me I was right, that it was about quality of life.
To say I shed more tears would be an understatement.
As if my condition wasn’t proof enough, when he requested my Wyoming medical records, they stonewalled. After a battle, they sent vague summaries lacking readings and the scans and x-rays they’d performed. Tests my records show they conducted (I saved EVERYTHING).
In contrast, National Jewish sent him everything they had from my brief stay in Denver.
Six months later I was walking long distances and biking. I haven’t had a poor oxygen saturation reading since. Not one. Not a single, freaking one! My health now is the best it’s been since early 2009.
I still have Chronic Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis, but the inhaler I use twice/day controls it and I’ve not had a serious illness in five years. I also test for signs there’s a problem and beware irritants and illnesses (hello, Covid). I’ve added yoga that I do every day and meditation to help with the residual psychological scars.
All the scars I retain are the stuff of stories about heroines who’ve lost hope, but find it again when opportunity reawakens what, as it turns out, isn’t lost.
Hope leads to opportunity leads to seizing the moment.
There’s Zephtasha cursing the shackle on her wrist that cancels her magic. Talma distracts her mind so as to not trigger her ghost legs. Kasaria fights to escape the other mind she’s trapped within.
Perhaps one of the best examples is Riparia Dellbane, my Kovenlore Chronicles heroine. A broken recluse, she’s certain no hope remains, yet so many of her actions contradict the belief. Eventually, when faced with an obvious door of opportunity, she has a choice to make.
I truly hope each of you also sees your opportunity.