By Christy Shelton
We all know that breathing is necessary to living and we all know that we do it almost without thinking. Do you know that we also stop breathing now and again and automatically start to breathe again? For Christy Shelton, breathing became something that she began to have to think about every day and now for the rest of her life.
It started when she was sick. Thinking she had a bad cold, she was coughing a lot. One morning she woke up to severe pain in her chest and thinking she just pulled a muscle or got pneumonia, Christy decided she needed to go to the emergency room. Not one to bother anyone, she drove herself to the ER. After a chest x-ray and CT-scan, the doctor came in to deliver bad news. Christy said, “The look on the doctor’s face…his eyes were wide. He just had this look that said ‘I don’t want to deliver bad news to this person.’” He told her he found something on Christy’s lung the size of a golf ball. Being referred to her primary physician, Christy again drove herself to the doctor’s office. This time, the word cancer was mentioned as well as tuberculosis. Christy was instructed to put on a mask and check into the hospital. After taking the time to drop her dog off at her cousin’s, Christy admitted herself to the hospital. More tests determined it was a lung abscess and antibiotics would help it to go away. It didn’t. In fact, it grew larger. After seeing a pulmonologist and cardiothoracic surgeon, surgery was ordered to remove it.
“With a lot of prayer, I went into surgery with a positive attitude. I’ll be fine. I’m not going to lose much of my lung.” After the surgery, Christy said, “I woke up thinking they took out just a wedge of my lung.” She found out the next day by the physician’s assistant that they took out two of the three lobes from her right lung. Christy was devastated. This was beyond what she thought would be the worst case scenario. She said, “I wondered how I was going to recover from this. Was I going to feel normal again?” Breathing would never to be the same. To this day, she has to focus on her breathing. She didn’t realize how many times she held her breath. Just walking she was fine, but hills or stairs, always get to her. “I always feel worse first thing in the morning.”
Through all of this, Christy quickly realized that she needed a support system to help her out. She was never used to asking for help and felt like a burden to those willing to help. Christy stayed with her cousin and her cousin’s husband while recovering. Other family members, including another cousin and aunt, stopped by throughout her recovery. Christy’s boss and his wife were also of great support. They know the perfect balance between being a great employer and friend. It is something she feels she needs to repay them for but they insisted it was out of love and require nothing in return. Christy knows that and hopes to be able to pay it forward someday as well.
When asking Christy if she thinks she has broken through her cocoon completely from this experience she shared, “Still in the process. I’ve learned that I’m fiercely independent. I never ask for help. I’m just that type of person. At this point, I realize I can’t get through this by myself. I have to ask for help and that’s okay. That’s one of the hardest things to do. Asking my family for help was hard.”
Today, Christy has a new normal. One she never expected before all of this happened. And goals have changed too. No longer thinking of the house she wanted to buy or the trip to Ireland she dreamed about, today she thinks about what she has gained from this experience that has made her stronger. “I have a new outlook on things. I feel braver,” she said. “I can look at things and say, ‘Oh, who cares about that? I had to have my lung removed. I’ve already done one of the hardest things I’ll ever do in my life. I know there’s always things that can be more difficult. I look at certain situations differently. I’m not scared to do some things by myself anymore. If there’s something I want to do, I just do it. I want to do what’s going to make me happy.’” Christy also said that, “There’s a reason for everything.” She continued, “I’m a firm believer in that. And I wonder still. I may never find out why this happened to me. But, there’s gotta be a reason for it. I hope it’s more than being able to do things on my own now.”
And another lesson Christy said she learned “Don’t be scared to question your doctors. Don’t be intimidated and think that they are smarter than you and know all the answers. In my situation, I don’t think they would have known the cause of my lung abscess if I had not spoken up.” The road less travelled for Christy may take her places she never would have gone before. The new adventure awaits.
Christy was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Since then she has called Illinois, Florida, and now Austin, Texas home. She considers Austin her forever home. Always up for a new adventure, Christy loves to travel and has many cities and countries she’d like to visit. Christy is loyal and goal oriented, she keeps working towards her dreams. Outside of her job in Finance, Christy enjoys playing with her dog Joey, music, movies and spending time with family and friends. Christy perseveres through life’s obstacles and hopes that others will find inspiration in her story.