Like a rose bush, growth with CAD takes time and patience

Just as she tends to her flowers, so must a columnist nurture her health

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by Mary Lott |

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I opened the front door and, clippers in hand, skipped out to see the full blossom of my yellow rose. I purchased the plant back in the middle of February. It had one nursery-forced bloom, which faded away after a week. Now would begin the real test of growth. Could the soil and sunlight combine to continue a blossom cycle? It would take time and patience.

We live in a newly built house. The landowner had cleared trees and leveled the site, but sadly, the fill dirt used to make the ground solid enough to support the house is mostly gravel with some soil to fill it in. That means it’s very tough to dig in and has few nutrients. With much trepidation, I gouged out a hole in which to plant my rose.

Difficulties make things worse

My cold agglutinin disease (CAD) makes my body much like that poor soil where I planted my rose bush. My outward appearance doesn’t indicate any health problems. Alas, my blood cells don’t carry oxygen well, which results in a lack of energy, susceptibility to infection, brain fog, and a few other symptoms. It also makes it difficult to recover from infections and diseases. CAD doesn’t have to have started the problems — it just makes recovery slower.

Back in early April, my husband and I attended a conference. We didn’t like the music, so we skipped that part and only listened to the speakers. We interacted with other attendees at mealtimes, but we mostly kept to ourselves. Over the next week, slowly but inexorably, everyone at the conference developed an upper respiratory infection. It took longer, because of our isolation, for us to develop the illness, but we both succumbed.

After three or four days, everyone got better — except for me. My symptoms continued through May. I experienced extreme tiredness, brain fog, and a strong cough with no accompanying phlegm. Worst of all, my voice would stop working suddenly and my chest felt squeezed and achy at those times. Years ago, that last symptom sent me to the emergency room to be checked for a heart attack. I have since learned that it’s a sign of a CAD exacerbation for me.

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Cross-cultural living brings stress

Our family consists of two wildly different cultures. My husband and I are from the southern United States. Our foster boys are from a village here in Papua, Indonesia. The mores and subconscious expectations that my husband and I have are different from the boys’ family routines. Neither is better; they’re just different.

The struggle to adapt to each other’s culture creates constant tension. I was really looking forward to June 9, when the boys would be finished with their school year and return home. The adjustments we make in their presence would be placed on hold. I could recover from my illness without the turmoil that young boys inevitably cause.

That didn’t happen this year. One of the boys has academic difficulties, and his school decreed that his return would be delayed one month for extra classes. That meant one more month of monitoring his internet usage, one more month of neighborhood playmates coming over from noon until evening. As the stress continued and June lingered on, so did my CAD symptoms.

Other situations also increased the stress. I’d hoped to get a routine doctor’s appointment scheduled, but that needed to be postponed. On top of everything, my tiredness was increasing and my cough was deepening. I stayed in bed every moment I could, knowing that rest is the best treatment for me.

A yellow rose is placed in a crystal vase on a wooden table. The bloom is a cutting from the author's garden.

With love, nurture, and patience, a thing of beauty emerges. (Photo by Mary Lott)

Careful care brings good results

The last boy went home on a recent Saturday morning. All of my symptoms have eased. I am healing. This is a much-needed respite.

As a dubious gardener, I’ve learned that proper conditions make a big difference. I have amended the soil for my rose bush so that it can receive nutrients. I fertilize and apply an herbicide. Back in May, I noticed new leaves emerging. Then, a few weeks later, a tiny bud began developing. I continued weeding and providing a nurturing environment. With patience, and over time, I had my first cutting.

Similarly, with patience, time, and nurturing, my CAD also improves. I look forward to blooming health in the days to come.

Note: Cold Agglutinin Disease 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 Cold Agglutinin Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cold agglutinin disease.