Coping With Chronic Illness as Life Throws Me a Curveball

Serious health setbacks and the loss of a family pet have tested this columnist

Ann Reynoso avatar

by Ann Reynoso |

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Curveball is a baseball term, but it also can apply to life when something surprising or unexpected happens.

It’s been several months since my last column, and in that time, life has thrown me a curveball. I’ve been constantly battling my illness, and so much has happened. I am fighting pulmonary fibrosis and continued issues with my heart due to atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response.

I’ve always been able to come back strong after a health spell, but in recent months, it’s been like fighting an unseen enemy that I can’t seem to dominate. I’ve felt like I was tied to my bed and couldn’t find a way out of this prison.

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There were days when I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but then fell back into the despair of this illness. I was traveling back and forth to doctors and hospitals. I braved every test and treatment that was provided. I could tell that my medical team was worried about the regression of my health. They were also worried about my mental health due to another curveball that I’d have to face.

During this time, our beloved pet, Mikko, lost his battle with cancer. It was so sudden that we didn’t have time to take it all in. As sick as I felt, my daughter and I were there by his side during his last breath. He had been a ray of sunshine in our lives for 11 years. He always knew when I wasn’t well, and he would lie by my side to give me comfort. He was my support when I needed help, whether I was standing or sitting. What heartbreak.

Two hands embrace the head of an aging dog whose eyes show deep compassion for the person.

Our beloved pet Mikko always knew he was part of our family. (Courtesy of Ann Reynoso)

One thing I have learned to never ask is, “How much more can I take?” Yet in all my time with this illness, I’d never felt so vulnerable and defeated. I felt like my body just couldn’t catch a break. I was constantly trying to catch my breath. I could feel the oxygen draining from my body.

My chronic cough also returned. I’ve had coughing spells before, but I was able to overcome them in a matter of minutes. This time, the cough returned with a vengeance and wouldn’t leave me alone. My throat was sore, my voice was hoarse, and I couldn’t eat well because I was afraid I’d choke.

The light at the end of the tunnel

For weeks, I found myself unable to do much of anything without triggering the cough. I was convinced that doctors wouldn’t ever know what treatment might help me.

Finally, my medical team discovered that I was dealing with a series of flare-ups in my lungs, which caused fluid to remain trapped. They were afraid I might be getting pneumonia, so I was placed on heavy antibiotics and steroids, along with my normal pulmonary fibrosis medications. I followed this regimen for several months.

Finally, I am now beginning to see the light at the end of this long and dreary tunnel. I have gained some of my strength back, and while my cough is still lingering, it is not as severe as before.

I am up and moving about again, but when I get tired, which I easily do, I take time to rest and rejuvenate.

We decided to have our beloved pet cremated, and his ashes were sent to us. Now he can rest and be free of pain and illness. I still miss his presence. It’s hard knowing he won’t be here to greet me when I get home from spending a long day with my medical team, but I know that his pain is no more, and that makes me rest more easily.

A dog's ashes are stored in a box on a pedestal next to a paw print.

Mikko’s ashes and paw print. (Courtesy of Ann Reynoso)

Now it is time for me to concentrate on getting stronger and healthy so that I can enjoy the holidays that are upon us. Lots of rest is key to better days.

I’m wishing a happy holiday to each and every one of you.

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis 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 Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Roger Coles avatar

Roger Coles

Thank you Ann, that was an honest heart-felt piece of writing that many with this disease will appreciate

Totty Wilkerson avatar

Totty Wilkerson

Thank you, Ann. I am a caregiver and new to much of the terminologies, medication potentials and
treatment options but not new to the chronic suffering that accompanies this diagnosis. Due to COVID
we were held at bay on a waiting list for a year before finding another specialist who did diagnose
pulmonary fibrosis as well as Bronchiectasis. Articles such as yours and the support groups I have
joined are a life line of encouragement and information. I hope you are able to enjoy the holidays
with improved health and continue to share the journey with us.

Ann Reynoso avatar

Ann Reynoso

Thank you Totty. It always makes me happy to know that my stories are reaching others. I can imagine how difficult it is to learn every aspect of this illness, medications, terminology and treatment options. I know how the pressure that can come with all of this. Bless you and anyone who is a caregiver. It can be a demanding and difficult job. My daughter is my caregiver, and I always try and make sure that she takes time out for herself. It is important that you take time for yourself, even if it is just a small amount.

Sheryl A Byars avatar

Sheryl A Byars

Thank you Ann. We too lost our beloved friend and companion in November of this year. I I hope you continue to see that light at the end of the tunnel!

Ann Reynoso avatar

Ann Reynoso

Thank you Sheryl for your kinds words and thank you for reading my column. I am sorry for your loss. It is always hard to loose a beloved companion, but we have such sweet memories that make us smile everyday.

Julian Easterbrook avatar

Julian Easterbrook

Keep writing them Ann - they are much appreciated. I care for my wife and it helps to learn how others are coping

Ann Reynoso avatar

Ann Reynoso

Hello Julian. Thank you for reading my column. It makes me happy to know that my writing can reach others who are going through similar issues. My thoughts and good will go out to you and your wife.


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