"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women are merely players."
Setting: An operating room, doctor's office
Characters: Ashley (me), Mark, Radiologist, Pulmonologist, Nurses, Receptionists
Call it a coping mechanism, a way for me to deal with my reality, or simply a means to save myself from exposing a deep set pain and fear by being solely focused on the present scene. Doing all in hopes of avoiding any thoughts of the next act. Of course, the next act is filled with incredible opportunity and possibility, but it's also filled with pages of uncertainty. There's an unsettled churning within me of what may lie on the next pages of my story: a pang in the pit of my stomach that each hope and dream is entangled amongst. I want to exist in every moment and be thoughtfully present in the scene at hand, living each experience to its fullest. What's that churning pang? The fear of an untamable and uncertain future: an antagonist that is continually trying to undermine and foreshadow a future from which I so desperately want to hide. That character at the center of my life's conflict? Cystic Fibrosis.
I find myself forced to look ahead and prepare for the coming pages: a portacath is being placed in preparation for future conflicts with CF. A portacath is a medical appliance that is placed beneath the skin for long extended periods of time. A catheter connects the port to a vein in which antibiotics can be administered. Denial has played a starring role in my life these past years in conjunction with CF and its realities. For years I've forbid to even listen to conversations about a portacath: never even entertaining the words and realities that were spoken to me about the future and continued demand for life saving antibiotics. After every PICC line I would enter back into my safe state of denial, telling myself that I am "fine" and that "this time I'll be stronger than CF." I'd blame myself that I somehow allowed myself, in a moment of weakness, to let CF overtake me. I'd then go through the painful process of getting a new PICC line, another rigorous course of antibiotics in hopes they would give me my life back and more time, and then start the cycle all over again. Again, the topic of a "port" would frequent the conversations at my doctor visits, but I forbid to even entertain the idea. The inner monologue that played within me went something like this:
Ashley (inner dialogue): "A port? Please. I don't need a port. A port would mean I am sick, and I am NOT sick. A port would mean I've reached a point with my CF that makes things real: it would mean CF is winning. It would mean that I am not strong enough to beat it on my own. It would mean I am weak."
So, what has changed? Because of countless PICC lines being placed in my arms over the last few years, my veins have been left scarred and difficult to access. This meaning any future possibility of a PICC line is almost impossible. So, here I am prepped and ready for a port. Does a part of me still forbid to see this reality? Yes. I want nothing more than to turn to new pages of my life's script that contain no PICCS, no port, no CF. But this is the script I've been given and it's time for me to confront it and embrace every glorious moment: easy and difficult.
It was decided when the last PICC line was pulled that it was time for a port. Best doing so while I am doing well: not having to put my body through the extra stress of not only fighting off an infection, but having to place a port at that same time. We must best prepare ourselves for those days ahead when CF creates an insufferable conflict. We must be best prepared, never letting CF have any advantage.
There's always going to be a part of me that forbids to believe this is truly happening to my body, that CF has such destructive power over me, and that this is what's written on the pages of my life. But it is. I have CF. Does a port mean I am not strong? No. It makes me stronger. It gives my "starring role" depth of character and gives new direction and fight to my story. It gives me the possibility of new scenes and more pages. It gives me potential for more beautiful days, for more life.
No matter the story we are each given, there are countless conflicts, resolutions, characters, rising and falling action, and lessons learned that fill every scene of our lives. Today this is my scene, and it's filled with the hope of tomorrow. Each scene beautiful in its own way. So, I take a deep breath, turn the page, and breathe bravely into the next act.