Celebrating 50 Years of Good Times and Bad

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by Colleen Steele |

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Have you ever met someone and instantly felt like you’ve known them forever? I’ve experienced a rather twisted version of this.

In a previous column, I described pulmonary hypertension (PH) as a toxic person rather than a disease. PH had such an immediate impact on my family that by the end of the first year of my son Cullen’s diagnosis, it felt like it had been a part of our lives for much longer.

But something just happened that has me viewing my relationship with PH differently: I turned 50.

50th birthday | Pulmonary Hypertension News | A birthday cake with lit candles indicating 50 sits atop a table with a red tablecloth

Colleen celebrates her 50th birthday on Oct. 11. (Photo by Colleen Steele)

Reflecting on my half a century on this earth, I realize PH has only been part of it for the past 13 years. So, why have I been giving it so much credit for who I am today, when PH had nothing to do with me for 37 years?

I’ve made it a tradition to make a wish and a resolution when blowing out my birthday candles. This year, as a quinquagenarian, I resolved to reflect less on how PH has defined me. Instead, I am focused more on the experiences and people whose positive influence helped me deal with Cullen’s PH and his eventual heart and double-lung transplant.

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My parents raised me well

My mother and father have taught me through word and example how to become the best version of myself. They taught me about loyalty, kindness, dedication, hard work, and strong faith in God.

My parents developed my compassionate heart and built up my strength to handle life’s challenges. How I have turned out is hopefully a compliment to them.

Friendship is a treasure

A good friend is worth their weight in gold, and I’ve been enriched by many.

I don’t know how stable I would have been walking the PH path if not for old friends, and the new ones I met along the way. They helped shoulder my pain, made me laugh when I would have otherwise found no reason to, and encouraged me to keep moving forward when all I wanted to do was stop.

I’ve also tried to be as valuable to my friends as they are to me. Having a friend and being a friend have been key to my survival.

My husband and sons are at the heart of me

I’ve been married to my loving husband, Brian, for 26 years. We have two children, Cullen and Aidan, who have grown into amazing adults. We have been through a lot together, but love has conquered all.

Family is everything, and for that reason, I have sometimes gone to what feels like the ends of the earth to protect them. And I’ve witnessed them do the same for me.

Faith comes first

If God comes first in my life, why did I wait to mention him now?

Whenever I have struggled, the special people in my life have restored my faith. I truly see God in others, and I’ve tried to live in a way that others see God in me.

The Catholic Church employed me for almost 17 years, and that experience blended well into my caregiving responsibilities for Cullen. In my personal and professional life, I have relied most on showing empathy and compassion, and offering a helping hand and a listening ear, among many other values and skills.

I am who I am because of the good times and the bad

“Everything happens for a reason!” Oh, how I have cringed many times when my dad has said that to me.

It’s easy to believe when things are going well, but it’s not so easy when they aren’t. But I think that finally, after 50 years, I’ve found wisdom in those words.

I now realize there were both good and bad times before the PH journey that helped me walk that road once I reached it. The ups and downs of helping my son live with PH assisted me when it came time to see him through a transplant.

Now that Cullen is seven years post-transplant, I know there will be more good times and bad to come, but I expect that somewhere through it all, there will be a reason.

My birthday resolution and wish

I’ve resolved to know and appreciate all the factors in my life that have made me who I am today. My 50th birthday wish is for there to be more good times than bad this year, and for the power of family, friends, and faith to see me through it all.


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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