30 Days of PH: Dealing With The Elephant in the Room

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by Colleen Steele |

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Day 29 of 30 Days of PH⁣
Topic: Dealing With The Elephant In The Room

This is Skarlette’s Story @skarletteisdead   

In December 2015, I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and heart failure.

My diagnosis did not come easily. I’d been struggling for a long time and it took multiple doctors, three hospitals, seemingly endless tests, and a lot of hard conversations to finally find out what was wrong. And while having an answer closed one door, it opened another.

I was researching clinical trials and palliative care options when my friends were researching colleges and getting their first jobs. My declining health quickly became the elephant in every room.

I’ve always been both a pessimist and a perfectionist, so I immediately began planning every detail of my funeral. Literally. My friends joked that I was having a teenage midlife crisis, but planning was strangely cathartic. I guess it was my way of coming to terms with the fact that in many ways, PH is a death sentence. It’s not pretty. It’s painful, it’s violent, and it’s terrifying.

I used to think doctors could do anything and save anyone. Naive, right? But 17-year olds don’t want to think about things like that. After all, that’s ‘old people stuff’, as my high school boyfriend said. Then I realized that sometimes even the best doctors and drugs can’t save you.

After finishing my end of life plans, I made what is possibly the most boring bucket list ever. Ordinary things became a goal because I craved normalcy and was too sick to do the big things.

 I managed to cross off every single thing on that list, and then something unexpected happened. Almost five years later, I’m still here. I made it to adulthood, and that’s a miracle.

I’ve since managed to find some stability, and I am grateful to even be writing this. I’m still a “worst-case scenario” type of person and my body is pretty much a walking train wreck, but that body still stands despite the pain it has endured. I’ve accepted that my life will always look different from others whether I die tomorrow or live to be 60.

After so many years of planning and being terrified of what my future might hold, it’s time for me to live in the moment.

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