Hope and Renewal

Spring, Passover, Easter. It’s time for hope and thoughts of new beginnings and a good time for Trish’s story. Trish is one of the amazing Fifty Over Fifty. She underwent a double lung transplant and was able to resume her career and her life. These are excerpts from her story:

And then when I had our third child, my son, I kind of decided that I was going to kind of step off the career track a bit, always intending that I would go back fairly soon.

And instead what happened was, when my son was a year old, I was diagnosed with this terminal lung disease that you’ve probably read about and so that kind of was the start of a totally different chapter in my life.

Q. So, tell me about that.

Sure. So, at first, what was difficult was that I was pregnant. And often when you’re pregnant, you’re short of breath. And so, at first my doctors assured me I’ll get better. But after my son was born, I continued to get worse and I was hoping that it would be a case of exercise-induced asthma. And that, in fact, was not the diagnosis. And after lots of testing, they finally diagnosed this disease that is very hard to pronounce called Lymphangioleomyomatosis. And it’s a disease where, basically, lung tissue grows uncontrollably in your lungs and eventually you suffocate to death. And it’s something that is virtually limited to–there’s a few cases, but 99.7% are women. And it often presents during your childbearing years. So it hits people at a very, very hard time just when your life is really ramping up. And all of a sudden, this kind of comes out of nowhere and really takes over your life.

Q. I was going to say, you were a young woman faced with this catastrophe.

Yes. Kind of horrible. And, of course, blindsides you away. Any disease of this sort will blindside you. And, I guess, looking back, too, I went through all of those typical stages, you know: denial, anger…but it wasn’t going to get me. And eventually it did, in the sense that it’s a progressive lung disease. And so over time my lung capacity dropped significantly to the point where I definitely needed a lung transplant. And I also needed huge doses of oxygen, really, just to survive. The idea was to try and keep me alive until I could get a lung transplant. And the thinking was, they were getting better with that technology. 

Q. How did you manage to keep your spirits up through all of this? I mean, it sounds like you fought really hard.

Yeah. I did. And I fought really hard because of my kids. And there was a reason that I tried for… I tried as hard as I could, and for as long as I could, to keep life normal for them. And it was a balance–how much do you tell them and when? We made every effort to the point where we would go on skiing weekends. And we would pack up my concentrator which provided oxygen, which I needed at night and throw that in the van. And away we would go. And I’d sit in the ski lodge all day, but my family would ski. It meant a lot to me that they were able to continue to do that. 

She spoke of the tremendous shift – and new set of fears – that occurred after her transplant:

there was also kind of a mental switch because as long as you were waiting for a transplant, it was always…you were always waiting for something. And in your mind, everything would be fine once you got it. And now it was…now you have it. And if something goes wrong, you have to deal with it. So it was kind of a mental switch. For example, rejection is something that’s—well, the enemy of all transplants. So the reality of, OK, if I do, I’ve got this now and if it rejects right away, I’m really in trouble. So it was kind of a different shift. But I was very blessed. And I did have a couple of challenges, but I did… I was well enough to come home after about 3 months. And slowly start to build my life again. And let me tell you, it was so great to wash dishes again. It’s going to sound so corny, but the first time I went to Costco and was standing in line, I had tears in my eyes. This is great, you know. Just that semblance of everyday life that had been so closed off to you. It was great. I certainly loved every second being with my children again. And you know, really took every moment I could to revel in that. 

I celebrate Trish in this season of renewal. And Ann. And Loretta. And Sunny. And Lynn. And all the women we know who have come through potentially lethal health crises and are here to celebrate today.

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