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Posted on 1. September 2011

Live Like You Were Living

By Michael Strausbaugh

If I knew then what I know now, I would have lived “like I was living.” What I mean is: People with chronic illness need to live inversely to the lifestyle espoused in the Tim McGraw song “Live Like You Were Dying.” Don’t get me wrong. I get the idea behind the song, and it’s a nice romantic ideal. But people like us never got to live like we were living.

Instead of being afraid to check my mail during the winter because I just knew I would end up with another ear infection or bout with pneumonia, I would just check my mail. Instead of politely declining a friend’s invitation to see a concert, I would have happily gone and crowd-surfed. So, maybe I wouldn’t have jumped with a parachute from an airplane, but I wouldn’t have been scared to share the same recycled cabin air with other passengers. 

Someone very close to me has often rationalized things by saying, “Why shouldn’t I (insert here)? I might die tomorrow!”  In response, I always countered with, “Yes, you might, but I’d prefer to think I’m going to be around for another 40 or 50 years.” Now, though, while I might not be the most daring guy, I would like to think I’m setting myself up for “living.”

If I knew then what I know now, I would have been more confident, more sure - just in general. As a serious and dedicated musician, I have always believed that if you put the effort and hours in, good results will happen. It seems logical. Logic, however, was tossed out the window when I started getting sick for no apparent reason. No amount of vitamins or anti-bacterial soap was ever enough. Eventually, any sense of self-confidence had been drubbed out by a complete lack of confidence in anything. The fact that trained medical professionals were telling me I was “fine” didn’t help, either. Now that I am as “normal” as I’ll ever be, I face my little challenges knowing I’ve seen and gone through worse, and I think I can handle about anything. 

If I knew then what I know now, I would have continued living instead of pressing “pause” for a decade. For me, that would have meant completing my higher education instead of having to jump back in 10-plus years later. I know many people choose to take a break, live a “normal” life for a while and then go back to school. But, it’s a choice they make. The choice is not made for them. And while I occasionally beat myself up for having to play “catch up” with students 10 to 15 years younger than me, I think I have a certain set of life experiences and skills that they don’t - a certain “something” that motivates me and keeps me going. That particular “something” is an appreciation of being able to go to a classroom on a campus, study, learn and plan for a future that, a few years ago, looked doubtful.

So, with all due respect to Mr. McGraw, I would first encourage people to appreciate the simple, the normal and the mundane. I still get excited when I go outside without a coat on!

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Comments (7) -

Shannon Hoopes
7:33 AM on Friday, September 02, 2011

Amen, brother!  We're all grateful you can live a somewhat "normal" life now.

Mike Strausbaugh Sr.
2:38 PM on Friday, September 02, 2011

I am so thankful that you have been able to turn your life back to normal and live it to the fullest. So often over the years many of us never thought that would be possible. Thanks to a great physician or two that put you on track with proper medical treatment.

Ilene Geary
5:44 PM on Friday, September 02, 2011

Michael,  
We are all grateful that someone finally diagnosed the problem and got you back on your feet.  There was a reason you needed to wait 10 years to get back into your education and your music, and your appreciation for life is reflected in it.  Your essay is inspiring, and I have forwarded to a friend whose daughter has just been diagnosed with some type of immune deficiency.  She is in her third year of college and is sick a lot, too.  Hopefully, they will get her on track, too.  Love you.

Carlene Christiansen
6:15 PM on Friday, September 02, 2011

Keep using those special talents you have because you are living beyond normal.  We are so proud of you!

Amy Oliver
2:04 PM on Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Michael,
I absolutely love that phrase,"Live Like You Were Living." When I hadn't been diagnosed with CVID yet, and the doctors didn't know what was wrong with me...I was just always ill, I felt like my life was in limbo. Everything was put on hold because I was always sick or in the hospital. Friends would ask me to go out, and I would always come up with an excuse not to go...every single time. I was doing the total opposite of what you said...actually I wasn't even doing that. I was afraid, so I pretty much just locked myself in my room. The CVID going undiagnosed made me exhausted all of the time, so all I did was sleep, and I was sleeping my life away...but I couldn't help it.I wasn't in control of my body anymore. I really commend you for being so brave even when things in your life didn't look the brightest...I really look up to you. Thank you so much for writing this blog...I know I really connected with it and I'm sure it will reach so many more people with chronic illnesses.  

william toth
1:14 PM on Friday, September 09, 2011

understanding of how an outcasted young person can be sick for 30 years undiagnosed with every sign and symptom possible to a doctor and remain pushed on from doctor to specialist to infectious disease to on cology to ent to allergy to pulmanary ect... all my life i've been told huh, or thats weird and three times i've been told i have three weeks to live it is kind of dicouraging to live through life in this manner, now i'm faced with infections that antibiotics used to help but nolonger even prolong symptoms longer than a week  with green goop for neerly ten years leeking from multiple holes in my face.blood infections turning to cepsis and flooding into my lungs. i guess i have a misunderstanding of this illness and i have been only receiving ivig treatments for 3 months now still to soo for results but still remain with a confused positive out look on life and have trouble finding the bad in this situation but understanding is hard to comprehend none the less. any help on any of this would be great i try to maintain this positive attitude but the next complication presents itself so often i can do little other than laugh in confusion

Yvonne Wright....(bon-bon w)
10:33 PM on Thursday, September 29, 2011

I've just found this site!  I was active on the PDSA support site for years and so this is a good thing for me to find!  Thanks to PDSA.
Diagnosed in 1983 it has been a long haul for me and it took years to find the product that would work for me in any way.  It has been so long since I've shared anything but what I do know is to keep on holding on until you do.  No, it is not a cure but it is a respite for my body, soul and mind.  I do stay away from large gatherings >>> because my spleen is long gone (1983) and I do not have the antibodies to fight many contagious infections.  That's may not seem like a hard thing to do, but it is.  I have lived a full life in between treatments and had the joy of watching my grandchildren grow and my love for them returned to me in many ways.  Talk about a "blessing?">>you betcha!  One cannot understand unless one has looked until they live it.
Anyway, I am here with no idea this will get through the mysteries of the internet world.  I just thought I'd give it a try!  
Love and Blessings Sent to Everyone Out There,
BonBonW

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