Get behind me, smokers!

One of my favorite stories in the Gospels can be found at the end of Mark 12: “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.'”

The poor widow gave a minuscule fraction of what the rich men did, but Jesus says she gave more. Last time I checked, God is never wrong. So what does Jesus mean? He means that they gave, but they did not “give until it hurts” as Mother Theresa would say. They gave only out of their surplus, which is an offense against justice. The just thing to do would be to keep enough money to live on, and give away the rest. The widow showed that money has no hold over her, that she has poverty of spirit. Otherwise, she would have tried to hoard her few cents, and would have been jealous of the rich men’s offerings, perhaps even too ashamed to put her own paltry donation into the treasury. With this small act she has set the standard that everyone should live up to, and the rich men probably have no idea that they are falling short of this standard.

I want to inspire people with healthy lungs to not take them for granted, and to not squander the benefits of breathing well. When you are young, especially, you have a “surplus” of health, so please take care of your body. An example of frittering away good health is willfully inhaling poisonous fumes and carcinogens in cigarette or marijuana smoke. It’s a mockery of people who would give anything to have that smoker’s lungs! Any time a person lights up, they should also have to tape a sign to their forehead that says “I’m really, really stupid”. Seriously!

From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

“This coming January 2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s Report on smoking and health, which concluded that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, killing more than 1,200 Americans every day. More than 8 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease. Each day, over 1,000 youth under 18 become daily smokers. Smoking-related diseases cost Americans $96 billion a year in direct health care expenses and $97 billion in lost productivity each year, a substantial portion of which come in taxpayer-supported payments.”

Like the widow, I am poor in that I have poor lung function. So, I can set the standard by giving everything I have in the fight for my health. A lot of people will ignore the standard and the above mentioned facts. They will keep on smoking pack after pack, because they really don’t care enough to change.

Some life advice: never date a smoker, they have no concept of guilt.

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Be anxious for nothing

udu

Hi y’all, my name is Daniel Pruit. I’ve been wanting to start a blog for months now and I am finally doing my first blog post! This first one is going to be a “who am I” kind of post.

(Fair warning: These are some deep thoughts and it gets pretty intense.)

If you want to know more about me and this blog, look in my ‘About’ section. I am in many ways just your average 21 year old college kid with naively optimistic hopes, too much coffee in my system (I am drinking some right now), and a lot of life still to figure out. But, I do have a unique perspective that I’d like to share, one that comes from a combination of my Catholic faith and my daily struggle with my health.

I am Roman Catholic and as of today, I have been a Catholic for 10 years and 4 days (I was received into the Church on Christ the King Sunday in 2003). I am 1 of 7 kids, and my parents are very devout and they raised my 2 brothers and 4 sisters and me in the Anglican Catholic Church until it became too corrupt, and we were called home to the one true Church, Roman Catholicism.

I went to a small, all boys Catholic school called Cistercian Preparatory for 8 years, which, without a doubt in my mind, has some of the best teachers and is one of the finest high schools in the nation. I am currently an English major at the Catholic and private University of Dallas (shout out to the best class of all time, my Christian Marriage class with Dr. Lowery!)

Tomorrow being Thanksgiving, I’ll say right now that I have a ridiculous amount of stuff to be thankful for. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for the strong foundation of faith and education I have received in my formative years, a foundation which has been built for the most part on all of the truth, goodness, and beauty of Catholicism. I’m thankful for an amazing and loving family, for being born in the greatest state (Texas) of the greatest country on earth, and last but not least, for the gift of life itself given to me by God and my parents. I have definitely been given more blessings than I deserve.

It has taken me a long time, but I also see my cystic fibrosis as a blessing too. Let me go into detail about my cystic fibrosis (CF for short) as a reference point. For those that don’t know, it is a chronic inherited disease that only 0.0000098% of people (or about 70,000 out of 7.1 billion) in the world can claim to have. In my family, two of my siblings–Mary and David–also have CF. It’s pretty common for multiple siblings to have it, because of the nature of the CF gene.

This is where the “fibro” in the title of my blog comes from. Being a person with cystic fibrosis means being part of a tight knit family of “cysters” and “fibros” all over the world that know what it’s like to be on that CF struggle bus. We can share the pains and joys of CF over social media, but because of the real dangers of spreading infections, people with CF are not encouraged to be around one another, and if they are, they have to wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet apart. No sympathy hugs for us! Of course, this doesn’t apply to people within the same family, so I can be around Mary and David all I want.

To be straight up about it, CF is a brutal and disgusting disease. There is no cure, but there are a lot of medications that slow down its progression. It is the most commonly fatal inherited disease among Caucasians in the US. This paragraph explains the biology of it in a much better way than I can:

“The inherited CF gene directs the body’s epithelial cells to produce a defective form of a protein called CFTR (or cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator) found in cells that line the lungs, digestive tract, sweat glands, and genitourinary system. When the CFTR protein is defective, epithelial cells can’t regulate the way chloride (part of the salt called sodium chloride) passes across cell membranes. This disrupts the essential balance of salt and water needed to maintain a normal thin coating of fluid and mucus inside the lungs, pancreas, and passageways in other organs. The mucus becomes thick, sticky, and hard to move.”

(This next part is intense.)

The very thick mucus that my body produces wreaks havoc on the above mentioned organs. This is gross, but practically speaking, a person with severe CF like myself will cough up a lot of mucus/blood every day. They will probably be underweight, be in the hospital often, and take a ton of medications.

Essentially my CF lungs are slowly filling up with this thick fluid that resembles green and yellow yogurt, and even with all the medications I take, I can’t really stop it. I have been a lot sicker this past year and a half, and my lung capacity has dropped to about 25% of a healthy 21 year old male’s capacity due to infections. (For some perspective, imagine if your cell phone could only be charged to 25%, or your car had a max speed of 40 mph. That would be pretty annoying!)

Of all my organ problems, this loss of lung function is what could cause life-threatening issues, and there’s a strong possibility that I will need a double lung transplant before I reach the quarter-century mark of my life. It would have to be a double, because otherwise the remaining CF lung would infect the other and the whole transplant would be for naught.

Here’s an updated list of my daily medications:

photo 1

photo 2

Nebulizers and pills:

Nebulizer

Medications

CF meds 008

How is this a blessing, you might ask…

It is a blessing because of what the Lord of the universe did for us on the Cross. He turned suffering and sickness completely upside down, and defeated death with His Resurrection. He taught us that bearing suffering not only patiently, but joyfully, can act as a powerful and efficacious prayer. He made illness an opportunity to be a co-redeemer with Him, if only one invites the sufferings out of love for Him.

“The Prayer of the sick person is his patience and his acceptance of his sickness for the love of Jesus Christ. Make sickness itself a prayer, for there is none more powerful, save martyrdom!” –St. Francis de Sales

“When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.”–St. Sebastian Valfre

I don’t fully understand the mystery that is “redemptive suffering”, but I do know that it gives tremendous value to something that would otherwise be meaningless. I like to think of it in an analogy. Graphite (the stuff in your pencil) and diamonds (the most beautiful and expensive gem) share a common characteristic. They are both pure carbon. What distinguishes the two is their molecular makeup. Graphite is composed of layers of molecules, whereas diamonds are cubic in nature. When put under high temperatures and incredible pressure, graphite molecules are forced to re-align and form a cubic formation known as crystal, and a diamond is born. Through his awesome power, God is capable of turning something like this:

graphite …into this: diamond

Just as both are made of pure carbon, my body has been made to suffer from this disease whether I like it or not, so I might as well offer it to God and let Him re-align it and give it a purpose. If (through mother nature) He can turn graphite into diamonds on a physical level, think of how much more He can do with suffering on a spiritual level!

How God uses my CF is a mystery, no doubt, but what He did on the Cross gives me solace when my willpower is completely spent. All I have to do is look at a Crucifix to see the efficacious model of redemption through pain. It renews my energy and zeal for fighting CF, and assures me that all of my frustration with this disease is being used as spiritual ammo for God and His servants. This faith in Christ’s Cross has been inspiring people for 2,000 years. It is truly a “gift that keeps on giving”, and it’s one of those things that no one can take away from a person. Faith and hope come from knowledge of the infinite goodness of God, not from anything earthly, and this is why one can be joyful in the midst of terrible sickness. As Philippians 4:6-7 says, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Real faith requires being unafraid of vulnerability and weakness, and an uncomfortable amount of humiliation, but if you trust in God, the reward of your faith will be this incredible inner peace. The moments when I feel this peace the most are those when the “Relax, God’s got this” mentality wins the battle over the “There’s just no way I can do this, I’m too sick and tired” mentality. God knows me much better than I know myself, and when I approach life with this attitude, I can appreciate His goodness a lot more and definitely “learn to love the skies I’m under” as Mumford and Sons would say.

I love being Catholic (and I think everyone should be Catholic!) because of the message of Christ’s Cross, and also because of His sacraments. Through my baptism, I am part of the Body of Christ, and so I’m able to receive His sanctifying grace. I imagine sacraments as faucets of grace that my soul can go to for a cleansing or refreshing, which I try to do often. Let me say from personal experience that confession, adoration, and the Mass are miraculous and life-changing, and I firmly believe that if every baptized Catholic did them more often, we could turn this sinful world into heaven on earth. That brings me to my next point, the doctrine of heaven.

It is not a place in the clouds, or a myth created to make people feel better about dying. Heaven means being in a state of full communion with God, who created us and knows everything we have ever thought or done, and yet who loves us infinitely. The peace that comes from knowing you are doing God’s Will is a little slice of heaven. Heaven is also eternal. It has no end, which is a mind-boggling concept on its own. The more you think about that, the shorter your earthly life gets, and the more serious Jesus’ call to “take up your cross and follow me” gets. It should give us great hope and joy, and give us the strength to “seize the day” even when we are suffering and in a lot of pain. I think about heaven a lot and how awesome it’s gonna be, but I’m in no hurry to get there. For now, I’ll just try and unite my sufferings with His, stay close to Him in the sacraments, and remember that no matter what happens, God’s got this!