We arrived in Denver at a fairly decent time of day. The kids were unhappy because there wasn’t a whole lot of snow for March but I was just glad we had landed. It was me and five boys driving the five day trip from the Lone Star State of Texas to the Evergreen State of Washington and I was ready for a little layover with family. It was our second long day on the road and this mama needed a rest. Listing our house, packing, loading up and moving out of Dallas, Texas had taken a little bit of the starch out of me. I knew we were doing the right thing. That God was bringing us back “home”. My husband had been offered his dream job in his hometown with the right salary and a moving package that took care of every detail. It had never occurred to him that we would actually get to live in the small city he grew up in because his job is very specialized, which lends itself to big city living. However, that was exactly what was happening. It was time to come home to family. It was just simply time to come home.
We spent the night with my brother Cid and his family. We woke up to a glorious snow cover. The kids were beside themselves and spent hours sledding down a local park hill with their cousins. I had begun to feel a tightness in my chest and wasn’t at all surprised. My brother has a dog (Lily the lab) who liked to shed all over me and with my highly allergic self it wasn’t unusual for my asthma to kick in around certain animals. I took my inhaler, got a good night’s sleep, reluctantly said goodbye to my brother and his family then loaded up the kids and headed out across Wyoming. The trip was beautiful. It was a sunny day and we couldn’t even count the number of antelope we saw. My oldest son Luis even spotted a real life cowboy checking a fence. I about drove off the road for that one. I had never seen a real cowboy in action, even though I had just lived in Texas for seven years. We stopped at an off-the-freeway gas station where Luis was even more surprised to see a truck idling with the keys in it totally unlocked. He stared and stared and made me look at the craziness of the situation. I smiled at him and informed him that we weren’t in Dallas anymore. He agreed wholeheartedly and relayed to me that in Dallas that truck would have been gone. Yes, but not in small town in Wyoming I told him. During the day as I was driving I felt the same tightness in my chest but shrugged it off. Maybe Lily the dog’s hair had followed me in the van. That was more than likely since there were six of us crammed into our over loaded vehicle.
We arrived in Montana for the night and left early the next morning for the last leg of our trip to Spokane, Washington. Not at all surprising that the last three hours of our adventure were a little bit challenging. The kids and I had been on the road for five days. The bright spot on that last day was eating in Butte, Montana which they incessantly called “Butt” after that. They took great pleasure in eating at “Butt”. I only screamed at them once going over Fourth of July pass and finally after what seemed like days rather than hours, we pulled into my mother-in-law’s driveway. I was done. I wanted to sit down on the sidewalk and cry. Why had we ever uprooted from Dallas and come home? I was tired, I hadn’t seen our rental, I had boy chatter in my head from four days of driving in the car, my asthma was bothering me and I knew we would be on an air mattress in our rental for the night. I had forgotten how much I loathed moving. I greeted my mother-in-law and looked into my husband’s eyes. He knew I wasn’t doing well. He can read me like a book.
After a few minutes of hugging and visiting and me trying to cover up my despondency we headed over to the rental house. It wasn’t anything what I expected. The carpets were old and dirty (and I think original) and I could see scratch marks from some type of dog. There were a few updates and a nice big back yard but the dishwasher was broken and the curtains were from 1972. Now I really wanted to sit down on the sidewalk and cry. Instead I plopped down on the stairs and reminded myself what a blessing our new temporary home was. It had six bedrooms to house us all, close proximity to the schools of our choice, walking distance from family and extremely low rent. I knew God had set us in that rental but after two weeks in Dallas without my husband and a five day road trip up north with five boys by myself I was having a hard time not laying face down on the floor and putting on a kicking and screaming show to rival any of my kids.
It wasn’t long before we had the van unloaded and had set up temporary beds for us all. Friends from the area drove over and stayed the night to help us move in the next day. It was a balm to my soul to hug and connect with people I had known for over 20 years. I knew so much good would come of this move.
I awoke the next morning with more tightness in my chest. I sauntered down the hall and sat on the stairs again like I had did the day before and I assessed how I was doing. Not very well. I looked around at the evidence of pets (we had asked if they had any and the answer was one very small hypo allergenic dog) and I knew that there had to have been more of a history of animal in the house than that. Frustrated that I had landed in a dander bed of allergies I took my inhaler and moved on for the day. There was a lot to do with the moving van showing up. Although I felt discouraged I pressed on like I always did. It was what it was. A mom was never off duty.
After a month or two of settling in I was worried, frustrated and annoyed with my health. How had someone who had been running 5 miles a day and had no asthma symptoms before the move be so flared up? During those first couple of months I visited several different doctors (who put me on inhaled and oral steroids along with albuterol) whose treatment had not made me feel any different. Maybe it was the spring pollen? I’d have good days and bad days and really it was mostly bad days. Needless to say I wasn’t doing much better. After visiting the allergist I was put on a nasal steroid, an inhaled steroid and albuterol for whenever I needed it. There conclusion was it must be environmental. The house I was living in was making me sick. All of these appointments left me puzzled. I was barking up the asthma tree but some things didn’t add up. I could run fine with the tightness in my chest which seemed so odd to me with unchecked asthma. I was sleeping through the night (no asthmatic cough was waking me up). Like a switch had been turned on I had become sick on my move to Washington and had never gotten better. I had never had to be on anything to manage my asthma except an occasional rescue inhaler which I used very few and far between. I had lived in this area before for 13 years prior to Texas and never had any problems. The confusion I was having over the state of my health left me in a struggle I did not expect. This was supposed to be a good move up to Washington right?
I went through summer battling the tightness in my chest. It never went away. It was like a small dog was sitting on me at all times. The only time I felt okay was after I fell asleep and the few minutes upon waking. I could breathe free and clear and my heart would rejoice…only to have the tightness return within the hour. I went back to the doctors who gave me a peak flow meter to check my breath flow and administered a nebulizer to open up my chest.
At the end of summer we went on vacation to Oregon where by the very end of the trip I felt so terrible I took the radical step to eat vegan in hopes that changing my diet would offer me relief. Was it a food allergy that was making me so sick? My only known food allergy was shellfish. Maybe the test was wrong. For the next few months I tinkered with my diet. I cut out dairy, I cut out gluten, I cut out soy…then I added it back in. I took natural antihistamines and I took OTC antihistamines. Nothing helped alleviate the tightness in my chest. Why was my asthma so bad? Was it a food allergy? Animal allergy? I could only conclude that the house I was living in was a hotbed of allergies and until we moved out I would not get better. But why was I so sick in Oregon in a pet free home if that were true? We began looking for houses even though we didn’t have the money yet and every house we were interested in didn’t work out one way or the other. God? Why are you keeping me in this house? I am so sick! To add to the difficulty people couldn’t see how sick I was. Tightness in your chest and trouble breathing aren’t really visible health problems. Even my husband and children could not understand the extent of my suffering. Every day I walked in fear and had to reign in my thoughts. Would I be this way the rest of my life?
As we rolled through Thanksgiving and into December everyone was getting sick with cold and viruses. It was just that time of year. I worked hard keeping my house running on the little energy and breath support I had. Christmas was only weeks away so shopping had to be done and the fullness of the season was upon us. At about the second week of December I contracted the virus and my tightness was so bad I went in to see another doctor who prescribed a strong dose of oral steroid for my asthma and encouraged my use of my nebulizer as I needed it. For the next few days around the clock every four hours I faithfully used my nebulizer and took my steroid with no improvement. Was anything going to make me feel better? Why wasn’t my asthma responding to the treatment? Why couldn’t I just breathe again? I helped some friends move that weekend because I felt a “little” better but had to sit down a few times to rest. That wasn’t me, was it? I had endless energy! That Sunday as I sat in church because I could not stand and I heard the Lord speak firmly to my spirit that my healing was coming. I knew it was God. I just knew that I knew in my heart of hearts that I had heard from him. He was going to heal me like that! He was going to set me free! The next day I was in the hospital.