Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Day 7 - A Sight to Behold

[Blog post written by Mark Bonnema]

It was just another night. I came home from work around 6:30. Ashley was wrapping up a day of blogging, e-mailing, planning for CF events, studying, practicing, teaching, and texting everyone she knows. But then, we went outside and sat on the deck beneath our pergola while grilling for supper. It was then that I realized, Ashley looks and sounds like her “old self.” She has energy left at the end of the day. She is talking about tomorrow, next week, and life after graduation. She seems… better. Just another night turned into life as we remember during periods of good health.  For so long we had accepted living cautiously as a new normal: the reality of life dictated by CF’s chronic and destructive lung infections. For the first time in months we were not living in the shadow of Ashley’s CF. It was as if Ashley’s health returned with the warmth and brightness of the spring sun.

Pure Joy
Knock on wood, Ashley has been PICC free for about 15+ days and off IV antibiotics for about 30+ days. She continues to get braver and bolder with her daily activities. She wants to get out of the house more. She takes the stairs with an extra bit of life in each step rather than a groan. She smiles and laughs freely without fear of a coughing spell. Her spontaneity and vivaciousness have returned. For me, it’s a sight to behold and brings pure joy to my heart.

While I certainly do not think that it hurt, I also do not believe that the return of the warm spring sun was solely responsible for Ashley’s return to health. It was a combination of many factors, some known and some we may never understand or comprehend. While Ashley may seem back to her “old self,” I know this last battle’s effects can still be felt: her body tiring much more easily, a slight rasp in her voice, and an ever present ache that courses throughout reminding her of the value of every breath. 

Ashley has an exceptional healthcare team of providers and nurses who battle CF on the frontlines every day, checking drug levels, kidney and liver function, pulmonary function tests, lung sounds, bacterial cultures and antibiotic sensitivities, and a host of other medical tests and procedures. A great deal of Ashley’s recovery is a direct result of their tireless care and dedication to her treatment. For each and every one of them, we are truly grateful.

Breathing Bravely
But beyond the health tests, antibiotics, and treatments, Ashley’s brave and perpetually positive spirit also likely contributed to her newfound return to health. With Ashley, it was never if, but rather when she would get her breath back. I am sure many of you have experienced her brave tenacity by reading her blog or talking to her over the past six months. Ashley refuses to give up when it comes to fighting CF. CF may win a battle or two here and there, but Ashley is determined to win the war. What’s more, she fights with such grace and beauty.

Finally, there is you. I never could have imagined such support and encouragement from a community of friends, family, and neighbors would be possible this side of heaven, but you all proved that God’s grace and love are present, alive, and as strong as ever here on Earth. Ashley (and myself) received daily notes, letters, cards, hugs,  and promising thoughts of encouragement and love. You helped Ashley’s return to health become a reality by providing hope, encouragement whenever and wherever it was needed. Thank you from the depths of our heart. To you, it may have been a passing thought or “the least you could do,” but for us, it was the foundation we needed to keep pressing on with full hope and expectation that things would be better soon. There is no way we could ever repay you in kind for what you have given us. Regardless, know that we are filled with gratitude and love for each of you. You have solidified a spot in our hearts forever.

I wish Ashley’s continued health were as easy as knocking on wood… many of you may know that I have plenty of scrap wood in the garage and basement. Alas, the chronic nature of CF means there will be difficult times in the future, but for now, it feels good to see Ashley breathing bravely a little easier. When the time comes, it’s an indescribable feeling to know we have such great wonderful people as yourself to rely on, you are a much stronger foundation than even the strongest type of wood.

Who and what is the foundation of your life? In the best of times? In the most difficult of times? 

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