June 21, 2010

Some thoughts on health

"May you live in interesting times," goes the old Chinese curse. It should be noted that this phrase's earliest appearance is in a 1950 sci-fi story. The Cold War was definitely an interesting time.

This post is not about yesterday's run, nor is it about tomorrow's. This post doesn't cover the mechanics of running, the psychology of exercise, or have any sweeping complex of metaphorical chutes and ladders expressing deep thoughts on life. This is just a few thoughts on health - mine, my family's, my friends'.

Tonight I attended Broadway Bares 20, a fundraising event started by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which came into being for a very specific purpose and has since expanded its scope and mission to become an outreach program that helps over 400 smaller programs, somewhat like the United Way. It has not lost its focus, but in this decade where AIDS is now, largely, a manageable illness (given access to good healthcare and medicine!), BC/EFA has enlarged its embrace to tackle more problems.

And right now, RENT is on the TV. Deplorably, it suffers from its transition from stage to screen, even though the cast and the music is exactly the same. More importantly, it also suffers from the passage of time. It was written, remember, in 1994, a time before most of the drugs, a time when people were still dropping like flies. We'd only just figured out how AIDS was and was not transmitted, in fact. And Broadway Bares had been around for just four years. RENT has become a snapshot of an interesting time. Since then, we have made so much progress.

So what of it? Well, I see strange entanglements with many diseases; CF among them, of course. We, as a nation, have made so much progress in the last twenty years medically! CF is now talked of, in murmured conversations among older patients and some doctors, as a chronic but manageable illness. We don't yet say non-terminal, but...

Twenty years ago, the CF gene had just been found, giving rise to a lot of hopes for cures (which I won't comment on that topic right now). I was 18 and in my first year of college. My lung function was just over 100% and I had yet to experience a hospitalization (aside from the one when I was 4 before diagnosis) or a course of IV antibiotics. My few inhaled medications were purely maintenance. Pulmozyme, the Vest, aztreonam, and compounded TOBI did not exist. The grand CF drug pipeline did not exist. We have made so much progress.

It is hard though. The struggle against these permanent illnesses, the ones which will kill us, is never over, no matter how manageable they become. I can't really speak to the fight people w/ AIDS have to fight, though I imagine it is similar to the fight against any other terminal illness.

On a personal note, my health concerns came to the forefront recently - well, moreso than usual. I had been worried this trip overseas, being my first significant trip with diabetes, would result in out-of-control blood sugars or a massive lung infection (because of course I don't travel with the Vest). I was afraid that, as a litmus test, it would show that travel was not a good idea for me anymore. However, it was generally to the contrary. For the record, my lungs felt great the whole time and my cough was minimal. I didn't get out of breath moving road boxes or anything like that. My blood sugars remained in the low end of normal very steadily. All of my health problems receded.

Except for one. This new thing, this joint point, which is still not quite gone and which I know little about. This popped up the second day in Israel and made the entire trip one long miserable slog. I hate to say that because, sans joint pain, the trip was a wild success for me and I had a good time. I can travel with CF and I can travel with diabetes. No problem. But where did this joint paint come from and what the hell is it exactly??

My fear is that it is a new facet to my overall health picture. I know we all get a few problems as we get older, but I'm nowhere near old enough for something like this! To say the picture of my health has become interesting is to put it mildly.

And then there's my family. Mom on tomoxifin, dad on prednisone. They did nothing to deserve their health problems; like the rest of us, I suppose. But I don't know that so much progress has been made on the fronts they need as has been made with CF and AIDS. It seems unfair somehow. We've made so much progress...but not enough. On any front.