My Life (and Death) Is More Than Statistics and Dead Dreams
It’s not my birthday or my lung transplant anniversary or anything. But today, I’m thinking about being old-ish.
I’m thinking about how Mom realized my life expectancy in college biology, and how I realized it in middle school biology. I’m thinking about the times I drove myself nuts by wondering why I worked so hard in school if I didn’t expect to last long after college, or even graduate at all. I’m thinking about the day I decided I didn’t want to be a history professor because I realized I’d have to make it to my 30s or 40s to achieve that. I’m thinking about how I flushed my medications and feeding tube formula down the toilet because I hurt too much to continue.
I’m thinking about how I told myself I’d never accept a lung transplant because “surely” that would only prolong my suffering, plus I was frightened by the statistic that only about half of transplant patients last past five years. I’m thinking about how I made my family feel awkward by insensitively saying I didn’t care to pursue a 401K because that seemed pointless. I’m thinking about the day I decided it would be cruel to have a wife or children, only to leave them behind shortly after.
But I’ve started to rethink things.
I’m 27 and a half. Yes, I count those halves like a child because I’m proud to have overcome each. And “overcome” is perhaps inaccurate phrasing because honestly my life has only gotten better and better since my lung transplant in January 2017. I live with ease now. My life is spontaneous, exhilarating, joyful, radical, peaceful, hilarious, strange, dangerous, adventurous.
I’ve begun to realize I am not a number, much as I love those years and halves. I’m not an estimated expiration date posted to medical sites and I’m not a transplant survival statistic. I’m a Brad. And a Brad is extraordinarily talented at not dying. Really, I could put that on my résumé and back it up with 10 or so stories. Friends have drooled at the thought of how much money they could make off my luck in Vegas.
When I dream today, it’s of tonight’s or next week’s adventures, rather than next month’s or next year’s. I don’t plan too far into the future anymore, but it’s not because I’m afraid. Rather, I’m simply too busy delighting in the pleasure of this day, this hour, this minute, this moment. I’m too busy thriving to merely be “surviving.”
But when my time comes, it comes. (I know, I write about death a lot these days, but the beautiful things beg for attention.)
What I love about the transplant community is that we celebrate every itty-bitty milestone, making great use of Facebook’s “On This Day” tool. What I also love is that each time I meet a person with a transplant who’s dying, they only seem to care about the gratitude they feel to have lasted long enough to meet grandchildren, to travel, to get married, to have a career, to taste health, to relish life, to be fearless.
That’s a people with whom I love to belong.
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