The Beauty of an Expired Driver’s Permit

Serena Lawrence avatar

by Serena Lawrence |

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different journeys

Photo by Shutterstock Chronic illness affects everyone differently, so probably better not to judge.

In Life with PH
My beginner’s driving permit expired this summer. Even though it is no longer valid, I still carry it around with me in my wallet. It serves as a sort of memento, a sacred artifact to remind me that I am 29 and still can’t drive. I mean, it is a relic to remind me that I am still here.

When I was diagnosed with PH four years ago, my future felt pretty uncertain. I was told that I probably only had a few years left to live and was referred to as the “sickest of the sick” by one of my doctors.

It became pretty important at this time that my IDs were up to date in the chance that something happened. I was often asked when my healthcare card and driver’s permit expired, which I usually met with laughter. I vividly remember looking at the date on my driver’s permit and thinking how I wouldn’t be here to have to worry about renewing it. There was a time when I really thought all of this would be gone by now.

But here I am, four years later, sans driver’s permit. (As a side note, I might have to actually learn how to drive now. I am running out of excuses at this point. No one is buying it when I say I am too scared to drive — I’ve been awake for a right-cath, after all.)

Truthfully, my future still feels uncertain — but it doesn’t feel as shaky. And doesn’t everyone’s future feel uncertain to an extent? Healthy people get sick, careers change, relationships end, and metaphorical anvils drop from the sky. Life is constantly changing, for everyone.

I know how lucky I am for the turnaround I’ve had, and of course, this has contributed to my outlook on everything. Time has helped, but so has dumb luck, genetics, age, and maybe even my stubbornness — or whatever else you want to call it. My life has moved on from where it was when I was diagnosed. And even though I still may be sick, I’ve learned that sickness doesn’t always mean death. It means finding balance, learning how to adapt, finding ways to survive, and most of all, it means living.

I had several PH mentors who I turned to for support upon my diagnosis. All of them told me it would take time, but that someday, things would feel better. When they said this, I rolled my eyes, cried, and wanted to scream into a pillow. How could things ever feel better when my life felt so doomed? Wasn’t my life diagnosed as being over?

My PH mentors were right; it has taken some time, but things have slowly been getting better for the past few years. I purposely stayed oblivious to it, scared to tempt fate to pull the rug out from underneath me again. In fact, these past few weeks have been the best I have had in years, and I can’t deny how great things feel simply because of fear. I’ve learned that things aren’t over. Maybe I was given a second chance, and even though this isn’t what I would have picked for my life, I am going to grab onto whatever this is.

I know that rug may get pulled out from underneath me again — I feel the tug every time I go for my dreaded PH checkups — but I have to believe that I will learn to adapt and continue to not just survive, but to thrive. And in the same token, if there is a chance for chaos or disaster, I have to believe that there is an equal chance for miracles or beauty to unfold.

After all, I wasn’t sure I would be here to see my driver’s permit expire, and that is kind of a weirdly beautiful thing.


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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Andrea Rice avatar

Andrea Rice

Beautiful writing. Can't imagine being diagnosed at such a young age. It must have been devastating.

I can identify with your optimistic outlook on your life. Nothing is over until it is over and being stubborn helped you to survive.

I read in order to fight this chronic illness without a cure one must be strong-willed, stubborn and willing to fight. I to have been given a two-year expiration date because PH suddenly went severe. My doctors are doing research to find the cause and to slow down the progress. I don't see myself going anytime soon and have a wonderful support system of caring individuals that want me to make it.

With new treatments popping up from the wonderful scientists out there investing their time to help folks like us, I feel the need to give back and have given my cardiologist numerous hugs because I feel she needs oh so much more than just getting paid by my insurance. I always ask myself "what can I say and do to this wonderful person that saved my life?"

I'm glad you're doing better and have learned there's light at the end of the tunnel. I have never felt better in my life and my body is responding well to the medication I take.

It's not easy to be afraid to drive. I have issues with being in a car and other drivers on the road. This is from trauma having been in a severe car accident. Here's two tips if you want I can give that work:

1. See a therapist.
2. Therapist recommended this when behind the wheel driving. If I have feelings where my anxiety levels are rising, pull over and wait a few minutes and then go back out on the road again and keep repeating this process until you feel better. It works. It may take a while so please allow yourself patience.

Good Luck!


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