Happy Mini Hill of the Week Vol. III

What’s getting me through this week are the inspirational people that I would like to write about.

So I’ve decided to take the time and say a few words about people who are inspiring to me.  Whether I’ve known them my whole life, only for a little bit, or never met them but admire them, this is my chance to talk about them.  There are four portions to this.  I will talk about my parents, two of my friends, and a fellow blogger.  This is something to read when you have time because the stories of each of them are very important to me and I think that other people should be aware and be thankful for what they have after reading these stories.  Anywhoo, here goes nothing…

Parents

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First person (well people in this case) I will be speaking about are of course my parents.  They are a major inspiration to me.  I would honestly put my whole family down but my parents mostly.  They came to the USA with no money well my mom had $10 and my dad had $5 because he bought a Swedish guy a beer on the boat on the way over haha.  I couldn’t be any more proud of what they have become and how they have raised both my brother and me.  My dad started working at a gas station just to be able to pay the bills and my mom worked in a factory even while she was pregnant with me.  We lived in what is now considered the ghetto (it wasn’t this bad when we lived there back in the day).  They sacrificed so much for us kids.  They wouldn’t even take a summer vacation to be able to give us more.  Now after 28 years my dad works for a company that does computer graphics for major companies and I must say he’s pretty good.  You know all of those Lancome ads for the past bazillion years?  Yea, that’s my dad’s work.  My mom owns her own business with the help of my dad when he’s home.   My mom used to be a designer back in Poland and then continued when she came here but with my clothes.  I was the best dressed baby ever.  I had pencil skirts at the age of 3!

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Then my brother was born and everything changed haha.  Not really we just needed a bigger home.  Once my brother and I got older they were able to send my brother to a fancy shmancy private school (I REFUSED to go so I went to public school).  They bought me one car then later traded it in for another and were able to pay for part of my college and part of my brother’s.  They truly amaze me and I hope one day I can be as great as them.  They came from a country (Poland) that was in such devastation at the time and they literally watched their country be ripped apart.  They came to America for the American Dream.  Even though the typical American Dream is harder to obtain nowadays with the economy I think my parents achieved a lot.  I love them both dearly and don’t know what I would do without them.

Now they are in their 50’s and I’d say they definitely have some spunk haha.  My dad is still working and my mom has her own retail business.  Of course now that they are getting a little older they like to reminisce their younger years and have drilled it into my brother’s and my head that we have to remember what we came from.  I don’t mind because I like the way their faces bright up when they remember being my age once, it’s a little sparkle in their eyes that just puts a smile on my face.  We have strong parents who took a risk, a very big risk for a better life.  I am proud to say that I am their daughter.  I will forever be proud of that and proud of them.  My mom is my best friend and my dad is my hero.  I love you mommy and daddy.  As Dziadek would say Sto Lat i jedna zima!

Allie

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The second person I would like to talk about is my friend Allie.  I have known her since she was I believe 12/13 (wow time flies because she’s 23 now).  When I first met her it was through her older brother.  I went over their house and she was hooked up to this machine that looked like a giant nebulizer.  Well, Allie has Cystic Fibrosis.  She is a true inspiration.  She’s younger than me and dealing with this while growing up and trying to live a normal healthy life.  This is her story in her own words:

“Cystic fibrosis is a chronic-on-terminal recessive genetic disorder that mainly affects the lungs, pancreas, liver, and intestines. It is characterized by abnormal transportation of chloride and sodium across the CFTR gene, which results in the inability to break down mucus in the body, which in turn leads to thick, sticky secretions. This mucus then “clogs” the internal organs, which most commonly leads to frequent respiratory infections, which can lead to pneumonia. If left untreated or treated ineffectively due to drug sensitivities or a bacterial infection that is insusceptible to antibiotics, the infection can then become fatal. The majority of deaths related to cystic fibrosis are those who succumb to severe respiratory infections.

To help prevent reoccurring infections, CF patients have to do chest physiotherapy, or CPT for short. This is when you literally have someone beat the mucus out of you. It’s not as barbaric as it sounds, but that is exactly what it is. There are different positions to assume and spots for a person to “beat,” the areas being the upper and lower back of the ribcage, both sides, and front part of the patient’s chest above the pectoral muscles. This is the traditional form of therapy and can take anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour depending on how thoroughly it’s done. However, technology has made it possible for this therapy to be a little more convenient for the average person: you no longer need another person to “beat” you – they have created an inflatable vest that is hooked up to a machine through air hoses which causes a fast, air-pressurized percussion in all areas of the patient’s chest at once, which shakes the mucus loose and makes it easier to expel. This new technique only takes 30 minutes to complete and is considered more thorough compared to traditional therapy.

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To go along with CPT, the patient also does inhaled medications, steroids and antibiotics through a nebulizer. Each person is different in what they need, but the average is anywhere from 3 to 5 inhaled medications with each therapy. These help open up the bronchial tubes so the other medication and therapy is more affective. Usually each sitting of CPT and nebulizers combined takes about 45 minutes to an hour. To top it all off, people with cystic fibrosis have to do these treatments twice a day or more, depending on their health.

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Not only does the mucus cause infections if left untreated, but it prevents vital organs from functioning properly. It causes scarring in the lungs, which gets progressively worse with age, causing the affected’s lung capacity to lessen over time, making it more and more difficult to breathe on their own. Some patients are healthier than others, and there are different levels of severity, but it is not uncommon for a person with CF to rely on an oxygen supply as they get older.

It also affects the entire digestive system: that sticky mucus blocks ducts in the digestive organs that are necessary to transport specific enzymes throughout the body to aid in the breakdown of food and the absorption of nutrients. This is why most people with cystic fibrosis are very thin, anemic, and just overall deficient in almost every vitamin; in other words, malnourished. Their bodies can’t absorb everything they need to stay healthy like average Joe’s body does. To help keep nutrition up, CF patients are given a supplementary pancreatic enzyme to make up for the lack of naturally-occurring enzymes in their bodies, which needs to be taken with food. And not once a day, either. It’s every. Time. They. Eat. Anything. These enzymes are usually taken alongside high doses of vitamins and supplements, which are usually only taken once or twice daily, to ensure the absorption of all the nutrients their bodies can get.

Because of the lack of dietary health, a CF patient’s diet is usually very high-calorie, high-fat, and high-protein. Most CF patients are conditioned since a young age to never put the fork down, because that’s how quickly they can lose weight. So, for a Cystic, they average between 3-5 meals per day, plus whatever they snack on in between. Now, figure about 5 enzyme pills per meal, and about 3 for snacks, give-or-take, plus vitamins and other assorted pills needed for CFRD (cystic fibrosis related diabetes), and other digestive issues. Plus add the therapy sessions on top of that, that’s a lot of medications to squeeze into one day!

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My name is Allison Wrobleski, and I have cystic fibrosis. I was diagnosed at 2 months old, in February of 1990, and was labeled as a “failure to thrive” because I was so ill. After I pulled through my first few months, I was given an average life expectancy of 35 years or less. I am now 23-years old, have a lung capacity of 50% (which is about in the middle to lower-half as far as lung functions go), and have been through many trials and tribulations in my short 23 years. I have spent at least half of my life in a hospital bed, two weeks at a clip, sometimes extending to a month. I like to jokingly consider the hospital my second home and my vacation destination, and I know my local hospital and most hospital procedure and protocol like the back of my hand!

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As many times as I have been close to not coming out or pulling-through because of medical complications due to my CF, and although I am generally healthy now, my health has definitely declined. In 2007-2008 I had lung functions at 75%, and now I’m down to 50%. My daily therapies average between 2 to 3 hours, and I take an average of 35 pills a day. It’s a lot of maintenance and hard-work, and some days I want to do anything else but take care of myself, but I know that is not an option. Not only do I have to stay strong for myself so I can live the fullest life possible, but I have to stay strong for those in my life who love and support me. Without help from my family and friends and loved ones, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I am thankful for every moment I get to spend healthy and feeling well.”

Dan

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The third inspirational person I would like to talk about is a friend of mine who lost his battle to cancer on January 5, 2013.  His name is Dan.  It is so hard for me to write this.  I still can’t believe it and there are times where I go to search on my phone or Facebook for contacts and his name shows up in the list of people.  Then it just brings back memories, sometimes I cry and others I laugh and smile.

I remember getting a text and I thought oh yea I was supposed to text him today I forgot and then I read the text.  It was from his parents saying that Dan had passed away and I literally stopped everything I was doing.

Dan truly was one of a kind.  We actually had a project, I can’t remember what is was exactly but I know we had to build a country and we named our country a bad word in Polish, haha.  We joked about that for the longest time because no one except for the both of us knew what it meant.  Well after college we lost touch.  Last summer/fall we started messaging each other through Facebook.  He told me that he would absolutely love to hang out but if I’m sick he can’t.  So at the time I didn’t think anything of it and I actually was sick so I said well my birthday is coming up and you’re invited.  He kept saying I will try my hardest to make it and I kept on thinking well why won’t he come if I’m giving him such an advance notice?  I kept on getting sick because my immune system is the worst and my lungs were not happy with me last fall.  So I started to think maybe he just doesn’t want to hang out or something.  When I finally asked him why he can’t see me because I’m sick all the time, that’s when he sent the worst text I’ve ever gotten…”I have cancer.  I would have rather told you in person.”

My birthday rolled around and I asked him if he would like to join and he said he was going to try his best but he might have to show up with his backpack.  I asked him why this was such a big deal (I thought he actually meant a backpack) and he said it’s for his treatment.  I couldn’t believe that he was actually willing to come out for my birthday.  I told him to stay home and rest and we could hang out at a later time.  We actually hung out the next day because he was having a good day.  We drove around and since his car took diesel we almost ran out.  It took us FOREVER to find a gas station on the highway that had diesel for something other than trucks.  I remember we just drove and talked and caught up and made plans to go to AC one day and gamble all of our money away haha.  He made the greatest jokes and he was the same Dan I remembered in college.  We made plans to hang out again.

Every time we tried to hang out one of us was busy or Dan wasn’t feeling well and I didn’t want to make him do anything when he was tired.

We FINALLY got a chance to hang out in December.  I landed my big girl job and we had a mini celebration at a local diner.  I was having a pretty rough day because of some things that were going on and I started complaining and whining like a little baby.  He kept telling me life is so beautiful and not to worry about all of the little things because the next day none of it would matter.  Then he pushed the plate of chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream maple syrup and strawberries my way and said eat this you’ll feel better.  I insisted on staying grumpy that day and then we talked about my cigarette habit.  He was trying to get me to throw out the pack I had in my purse and I actually got a little mad and he took off his hat, took my hand and put it on his head and said “I don’t want you to end up like this so please quit.”  After that I wanted to cry.  I told him I would after that pack because it was a fresh pack, plus I still had another one I bought along with it and kept making excuses.  That was the last time I saw Dan.

We tried to hang out after that but then I got sick and actually passed out.  My parents were afraid that it was because of the condition I have so I had to stay home as much as possible.  Anyway needless to say Dan sent me some weird texts really late and I told him I can’t talk because I possibly had a seizure so I need my sleep.  Two days later I read that text from his parents.  I will never forget Dan.

The reason I find him so inspirational is because you would never know that he was fighting for his life every day.  He had the greatest outlook on life.  I remember when I didn’t know about the cancer and I would complain about the dumbest things he would always cheer me up and now that I look back on it I call myself an idiot for it and I actually feel terrible, every time I do I can hear him saying something funny and then saying oh stop or something.  He brightened up my life.  This past year has been the toughest year and he was an answer to my prayers.  An angel on earth was sent to me to let me know everything was going to be ok.  It’s been very hard for me to write about him and I cried the whole time I was typing this.

Since January I decided to start living life more like Dan did.  Not necessarily living as if every day were my last but just enjoying everything in life.  Enjoying all the good things and not sweating about the bad things.  Taking in the sunsets, stopping to smell the roses, feeling the warm wind blow on me while I’m driving with all the windows open.  I was a little cold hearted and numb when we first re-connected because of all of the things that happened to me but now I feel alive again.  I quit smoking when he passed away and I must say it’s amazing because I can finally breathe again.  Now when people fret the little things I tell them about Dan and how strong and positive he was.  He has made such an impact on my life.  In that short amount of time that we spoke before he passed he taught me so much.  He was such an amazing person and I am so blessed to have ever even talked to him.  Earth might have lost a warrior but heaven gained an angel.  I actually started to do some good with my life thanks to Dan.  I volunteer now and try to do as many good things as I can.  I know Dan is watching over me and rootin’ me on for quitting smoking and for changing my life completely.  I will never meet anyone like Dan and his memory lives on and I thank god everyday for letting me have such an inspirational person in my life.  Even in death he is an inspiration.  Dan, may you rest in peace, I’ll see you when it’s my time, and I miss you kiddo.

Katie

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The last (but definitely not least) person I want to talk about actually ties into Dan’s story as well.  Her name is Katie.  Her blog is www.katiedidwhat.com .  She is one of my favorite bloggers and is just so gosh darn adorable!  You can tell she really likes writing in her blog and really enjoys life.  When I first started reading Katie’s blog I saw a post with a picture of her at a cemetery.  It was her mom’s birthday and she had gone to say Happy Birthday.  So after that I started reading literally her whole blog and found out, we have something in common, we lost a loved one to cancer.  We are the same age and she is married and boy did she make a beautiful bride if you look at some of her wedding pictures.  I decided to write to Katie.  I wanted her to know how inspiring she is to her readers.  When you read her daily posts she just seems like someone you would want to be friends with and someone who can have a positive impact on your life.  Then when you read about her mom, it’s just amazing that she has so much strength to carry on.  I’m sure she has her good and bad days (we all have those where something will remind us of someone who passed away and bam instant tears).  Even with this loss she is so positive and bubbly.  From her writing it also seems that she has a very loving husband and that she actually is in love and loves with her whole heart.  I think that can also inspire readers that there is a fairy tale ending for everyone.  Ladies, there still are nice guys out there Katie can give us hope haha!

When I wrote to Katie I actually got very emotional.  I told her how inspiring she is to me and how she is so strong.  I told her about Dan.  When Katie wrote back she sent me the sweetest email.  I was actually surprised she even responded because I’m sure she gets lots of emails in one day.

I am also promising that whenever Katie makes it to the East Coast I want to take her out to dinner and meet her.  I’ve only “known” her through blogging and she really seems like a good friend to have by your side.

I want all of you to think about something after reading this.  Who inspires you?  Why do they inspire you?  Are there people who would kill to have your life?

That last question is what I think is most important.  It reminds us that we should truly be thankful for what we have and enjoy every minute.  Just remember there are probably people out there who have it worse than you do.  Is what you’re upset about really worth it?

In loving memory of Dan 9/28/1985-1/5/2013

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