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A Betraying Breath : Living In The Uncertainty Of A Chronic Illness

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All it takes is but a single breath for life to become so very real. In a single breath the heaviness of life and its fragility can pour into the depths of the soul. In a single breath lives a reality that is unchangeable, unfair, and heartbreaking. Within a single breath lives my very truth from which I so often times am on a quest to outrun. A truth that every breath I am given does not come without cost or heartache. A truth that is blended amidst quiet embers of fear waiting to ignite into a consuming blaze - waiting silently to steal that very breath and this life I love.

Betrayal in a Single Breath
Without conscious thought I take a breath and without a second thought give it back to the world. I take another. But this one is familiarly different.

I feel a catch as the air pours into my lungs and I grip onto the very breath that knowingly has given me this moment. My mouth fills with a taste I've tried to erase from my mind. My heart sinks and every breath I've taken for granted suddenly finds its weight and meaning within my chest. As I rush to the bathroom I already know within that single breath lies the truth I wish I could extinguish. The bright white porcelain of my sink a glaring contrast next to the truth of this life with cystic fibrosis - a truth painted in the most vibrant and unforgettable color of red. The color of blood.

As I clench the sides of the sink with my fingers, a flood of past memories surge through my body. A million thoughts run through my mind and with each breath comes a familiar burning in my throat and the desperate unanswerable questions that ceaselessly accompany this life with CF. I look up and catch my reflection in the mirror - only to be met by the deafening pleas of heartache present in my eyes. The heartache that dwells within the unassuming beauty of the season of Fall. The heartache I know all too well from past Novembers. The heartache that solely belongs to the feeling that my own body is betraying me and all I am. A heartache and betrayal that would only deepen as the episodes of coughing up blood would persist through the week.


Ceaseless Hope
But in that heartache and betrayal also lies an undeniable truth and the reminder of the gift that is alive in every single breath that I am given. Within that heartache and betrayal shines the fragility of life and a truth from which I will never be able to hide. In that heartache lies a reminder of all I've been through, what it means to truly live, and a truth built upon unyielding hope. But most of all, it is a reminder that CF is fused to every breath that gives me life. So, with my pleading eyes I stare back at myself in the mirror and whisper the words, "just one breath at a time." I cannot change this life with CF but what I can do is graciously take every breath as it comes to me - knowing it can all change in a single breath. So, I wait for this November to pass while embracing this season of Fall - breathing into every single breath a ceaseless hope that may smother the smoldering embers of fear caused by CF.

I take this life as it comes to me - one beautiful breath at a time. For within this single breath lies not only heartache caused by CF but the culmination of every beautiful moment, every burst of life-giving laughter, every loving embrace, and an immeasurable gratitude for it all. Within this single breath is this life lived beyond all odds - drenched in uncertainty, relentless hope, and endless beauty. I have learned through each season and through past Novembers to take each breath as it may come - clinging to an uncompromising gratitude for every breath that sustains me and ceaselessly believing in the hope of tomorrow.