Stronger Than – Lung Disease – Becca Vidrine
Becca and I met through writing for Houston Moms, we were both on boarded as new writers at the same time. We started chatting at events and through Instagram and I am forever thankful for her vulnerability and allowing our family into her family's lives. Her story is mind blowing and if you know her, you know how intentionally she lives every single day.
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Stronger Than Podcast
Season 1, Episode 4
Title: Stronger Than - Lung Disease with Becca Vidrine
Chris: Hi, I’m Chris Sizemore and you’re listening to Stronger Than. I have Becca with me, she’s a mom, she’s a friend of mine. We actually met through Houston Mom’s, we’re both writers, and so, I don’t know, when, did we start talking at that first event or was it at the picture thing?
Becca: It was probably on Instagram because you know
Becca: I’m pretty chatty over there
Chris: Yeah. Same.
Becca: I think I got inspired immediately by you and your outdoorsiness
Chris: Aw thank you
Becca: and your camping and yalls lifestyle because I hadn’t found many people in Houston who kind of live the way that y’all live. The way that we live.
Chris: I love it! I love it! So I think, what was crazy to me, was you said “I have Interstitial Lung Disease” and I said “That’s the exact thing my mom has” which
Becca: Oh, I totally remember that
Chris: Which was shocking to me because I have literally met no one else, no one, and so I was like “Wait, what?” And I have walked the road with my mom on this, and she’s on the last podcast and talks a little bit about it, so I know a little bit about your story just from living it through my mom, which I am sure is a very similar experience.
Becca: It’s funny I remember that conversation that we had on Instagram. When, I guess I posted something about Interstitial Lung Disease, and you were “Wait, you have that? My mom has that!” And I was “Cody, my husband, I was like somebody else has it that I know! How exciting!” And then I said “Well, it’s not exciting” but it was so nice because I only, at that point, I knew, or know, one other person who’s had it and had a lung transplant since getting diagnosed. But other than that I didn’t know anyone, so that might have been our first, like, this will be my person.
Becca: She’s gonna be my friend, I know it!
Chris: I love it!
Becca: So basically, my experience was pretty chaotic and aggressive. I had had some autoimmune symptoms, the back story kinda, for a couple of years, but had seen probably 10 doctors and no one could figure out what was wrong. They just kept saying “Yeah, I don’t know, these symptoms are weird. Go see someone else.” Over and over and over again. And so finally, the stubborn person that I am, I was like “You know what? Everyone has failed me, I’m just gonna be done with the medical system!” I had what I thought was sinus infection, which I didn’t go to the doctor because you know, I was done with that. Eventually I got really sick. I could barely talk without coughing. I had to take off of work, which was rare. So I said “I’ll go to the doctor. Let me make sure I don’t have Covid, or something that I am spreading.” Because at this point I sounded pretty gnarly.
Chris: So this is, I’m assuming, 2020?
Becca: This is, I’m sorry, this is March 1, 2021.
Chris: Ok. And you are not even in Houston at this point correct?
Becca: No, we lived in Louisiana. I was working for hospice. We lived in a very small town in Louisiana. We were just trucking along, living your very typical small town life. So I go to the doctor on March 1st and she says “You don’t have any respiratory virus. You don’t have the flu, you don’t have Covid, you don’t have RSV, you don’t have anything. You need to go get a chest x-ray though because you sound really bad.” So she calls me, after hours, and tells me I have double pneumonia. And I said, “Oh yeah, that’s exactly what it feels like.” I literally couldn’t breathe. She said, “If things get worse go to the emergency room.” I laughed at her. I was like, “Me? I will never go to the emergency room! Never! I have never been to the hospital, other than to deliver Robbie, it’s just not gonna happen. Ok thank you. I will heal myself because I am just gonna wait it out.”
Chris: It’s crazy to me to hear your story, which you have shared with me before, because it is identical to my mom’s story.
Becca: I can see that.
Chris: Because she was very much like “I am not into hospitals, doctors are the worst and I am just going to do everything naturally.” Which, guaranteed, natural healing. There is medicine there. That’s real stuff right?
Becca: I was past that point, I was way past that point
Chris: And she was way past that point. She legit called me, we talked about it on the last podcast, and said “Hey, I just went to my doctor and she if I don’t go to the emergency room, I may die tonight. So I think I’m gonna go.” And I was like “WHAT!”
Becca: It was “I think I might go now”
Chris: Yeah, she said “I’m thinking about going.” And I said “I’m going to come get you right now and we are gonna go. That’s what we’re doing.” But it was so much the same experience.
Becca: So by that evening, it was probably like 5pm that she had called me, by around 7:30, because we had put Robbie to bed, he was a baby then, I couldn’t talk anymore.
Chris: oh, wow
Becca: Because if I opened my mouth, I started coughing and I couldn’t stop. So, I was literally texting Cody, who was beside me, what I needed. Things like “Can you get me this medicine? Can you get me some bone broth?” Because that was all I could do. I literally couldn’t talk. I checked my temperature, it was 105. He said, ”Becca, I think” and I said, “I know, I need to go to the ER. I can’t breathe.” Something is wrong, at this point. So, we called my parents, who lived across the street, and my mom said, “No, I am calling an ambulance. You are not driving there, I am calling an ambulance.” And I threw a fit! I was throwing curse words at her like a sailor. I kept saying, “I am not this sick, they will laugh at me.”
Chris: Meanwhile, you can’t breathe.
Becca: So they called an ambulance because I could barely even stand
Chris: Well, breathing is essential to life.
Chris: You need that
Becca: I was really declining in that moment. We get to the emergency room, I am there for hours, and eventually the next day, like 12 hours later, I was still in the emergency room. And all of these doctor start running in and ask me, “Do you have this, this, this and this symptoms?” They listed like 15 symptoms, and I said, “I have all of them.” They said, “Oh, yeah, that makes sense, because we have found out that you don’t have pneumonia, you have a terminal lung disease.” I was like, “OK.” They said, “You have an autoimmune disorder called Scleroderma. No one has told you that before?” To which I said, “No one could figure it out.” So all of the symptoms they listed out were my Scleroderma symptoms. They said that this autoimmune disease, in combination with a couple of others that I figured out I have, caused this scarring on my lungs. And the said, “Now we need to take you to surgery so we can biopsy it and confirm your diagnosis and then we will figure out a plan from there.” And I was like, “Ok…ok.” I was in the emergency room by myself at this point, because Cody had gone home to get clothes, because we had realized that, you know, maybe I wasn’t being dramatic
Chris: Yeah, this was a real thing
Becca: Maybe..Maybe this was something.
Chris: So in that moment, you’re in a hospital room by yourself, and they are telling you that you have this and also you have this, and..and. What was going through your head?
Becca: I was crazy Googling things. And crazy texting a couple of my friends. Because they couldn’t confirm anything. They could just say, “We think you have these things.” So I am looking them up and am thinking “Oh my God! This is bad! This is not good news! This can’t be real. I’m not really gonna die from this.” I was in complete denial and shock and also just “Let’s just keep rolling.” All of a sudden I was getting morphine, I was getting all of these IV drugs, and just having to surrender to the medical care and the medical system right then and there. I get discharged about a week later, and then I start seeing all kinds of doctors. The correct kind of doctors at this point. They were all, both of them, I had a rheumatologist and a pulmonologist that I started seeing, that were both very familiar with the diseases that I was being diagnosed with. They were both saying, “You have a year or two to live. That’s without a transplant.” And I was like, again, I couldn’t breathe though, I was being pumped with so many steroids to be able to breathe. I mean, I felt good then. To the rheumatologist I said, “Tell me how long.”
Chris: Oh, you asked?
Becca: Oh Yeah! I wanted to know.
Chris: Oh, wow
Becca: So I said, “Ok, tell me how long I have.” She said, in my head she said 5 to 10 years. I was like, “That’s terrible. That’s awful news. That is not long.” So then I go to my pulmonologist a couple of days, weeks, later, I don’t remember, and he said, “You have 1 to 2 years left.” And I was like, “WHAT!” So it’s 5 to 10 years life expectancy AFTER a lung transplant.
Chris: Oh wow
Becca: That’s what she told me, that’s just not what I heard. So then I went back to her and was like, “I thought you said 5 to 10 years right now?” And she said, “No, you maybe have 2 years left if you don’t get a transplant.” I was like… I mean Robbie is like 2 at this point, I was like, “Oh my god..” So that is what really happened.
Chris: Well you are disconnected right? Not only are you dealing with the idea that not only do I have one terminal illness, I mean scleroderma doesn’t ever get better it just continues to get worse. Your quality of life, your mobility and stuff goes down. So you are dealing with both of these diagnoses and you’re then getting this timeline cut off of your life.
Chris: And, I am assuming, your brain is like “Whoop, I’m done!”
Becca: It was. I felt like a puppet. You know those like
Chris: A marionette
Becca: That’s what I felt like for a solid, probably, three months. I was just doing whatever they said to do, taking whatever pills to take, getting whatever vaccines they said. And I was against all of it before. I would barely touch an Advil. So then I’m getting pumped up with IV steroids and stuff that is tearing my body up. And at this point I’m like, “Well the alternative is I just die, so surely all of these medications and X-rays and things they are just gonna do what I am already..It’s just gonna kill me, whatever.” So I am surrendering, and that was one of the hardest things, was to surrender to this. The belief that I held so close to me of “I can do it on my own! I don’t need outside help!” that was definitely one of the biggest lessons in the beginning, of “Ok. I just have to trust all of these people who I have lost trust in for so long.” So, you know, I ended up back in the hospital, I had a collapsed lung. I was there for 2 weeks just hanging out with a collapsed lung, on so much steroids though so I was high on life. Feeling just amazing! I started working for Cody because I needed tuff to do. So then they told me we needed to go to Houston or Duke. My rheumatologist said, “If this was my daughter, this is where I would send her.” So I said, “Ok.” Apparently New Orleans has a transplant program, but she said “I would go to Houston if I were you” and I was like, “Ok, great. Houston is close.” We were three hours from Houston. So Cody and I come for a weeks worth of testing, and I’m talking like I didn’t have a brain scan, but everything else was tested. Every organ, everything from head to toe they ran tests on. It was brutal! And at that point I was on oxygen continuously. For anyone who understands oxygen, at one point when I would exert myself, like exercise, just walk, not exercise, walk, I would get up to 8 liters of oxygen.
Becca: Yeah, and at that point, like I had said, I was just going through the motions and just surrendering to whatever they told me to do, but I had debilitating anxiety. Which, you know understandably. I didn’t think anything was wrong, but at that point I was on Xanax, I was on Trazodone, I was on Klonopin, my doctor was like, “Take what works. Right now, survive through this.” None of it worked. I was having constant panic attacks. It was debilitating and it was so scary. It’s heartbreaking looking back on it. I couldn’t imagine being my fiends and family watching me just completely fall apart. Also, not being able to fall apart because I was the mom to a 2 year old who was going through so many regressions, because we would just up and leave and end up in a hospital for a week at a time and leave him.
Chris: Did anybody at any point look at you and go “You are having this debilitating anxiety because you are dealing with your own death or the possibility of your own death?”
Becca: Yeah totally
Chris: Ok, good
Becca: So kind of a backstory, I have a brother who died. So my parents have already lost a child.
Chris: Holy cow! So this is all very restimulating for them as well.
Becca: He died when he was 5. He had leukemia. This is 30 years ago at his point, more than 30 years ago, so having to go to them and telling them I’m..you’re going to lose another child that was so hard. And it was so ruching to watch them watch me. That was like a really complicated time. So we went to Houston for a week, I did all of those tests, and this was in May 2021. Two months later from when I ended up in the emergency room. They wold me I needed to be listed right now. How soon could we move to Houston. Because we had to move because of the distance. A lung is only viable for 4 to 6 hours. And we lived 3 hours away, but I-10 is unpredictable and it could take 6 hours to get to Houston and you lose
Chris: You lose the lung
Becca: The lung. So they asked “How soon can you move here?” To which I said, “Let me go home and figure it out.” And 2 weeks later we moved to Houston.
Chris: Time period wise we are looking at within 3 months of being diagnosed you are uprooting
Becca: I think it was just 2 full months.
Chris: Wow. So you are uprooting your entire family. Which, I’m sure, your parents having dealt with the loss of another child are like, “Oh now she’s gonna leave.”
Becca: We gave away almost everything that we owned. We gave away all of our furniture, all of our clothes. We took what we could fit in our apartment, we moved to the Medical Center, we took what would fit in our apartment and gave away everything else. We sold our camper. We sold Cody’s truck. We sold, those were the only 2 things we sold, everything else we just gave away. I said, “I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to stress about it.” The donation center in our little town loved us because we just kept. I probably brought 25 loads to this donation center. My neighbor got all of our furniture. She repurposes furniture, so I was just you can have it all.
Chris: Because you are stripping down. You are going, “Ok, here is our focus.”
Becca: At that point, it was then that we really started to shift our priorities. I was like, “What is all of this? This is crap. None of this matters. We are together. I’m getting treatment. And that’s the only thing that matters.” And Cody felt the exact same way. “Give it away, just give everything away. We don’t need it, it’s extra stress.” So then, yeah, we picked up and we moved to Houston. I was really really sick at that point and scared. That was very suffocating, the fear that I felt was all consuming. And I think it attributed to me being sicker and feeling sicker. You know, there’s a fine line between being short of breath and then panic breathing and then that makes you short of breath. It was just that constantly.
Chris: I can’t imagine. I mean, I have anxiety, I have anxiety attacks, it’s been years since I have had one because I have learned how to manage it, but the way you breathe during a panic attack is terrifying because you feel like you’re being strangled. But to do that and not have functioning lungs, I can’t even imagine what that feels like.
Becca: It was like, “Is this because I’m dying right now? Or is this because I’m panicking?” And then I would be “Well I am dying so now I need to panic.” I was in a chokehold of fear.
Becca: What are you gonna do with Rob? What happens if I die in 6 months? What is life going to look like for them? I was just paralyzed, basically, in fear and I had so many extra medical things that started happening with all of my autoimmune stuff. I had a lot of skin issues, I ended up having surgery, a skin graft on my eyelid.
Chris: Well, I am sure that all of the mediations you are taking, on top of what is already happening, is not assisting. I mean it is assisting your body, but it is also knocking you down a little bit.
Becca: Yeah. So then I ended up in the hospital in Houston. I had RSV and that took me out for a little while. That was in August of 2021. From that point, right after that, is when I started doing some reflecting and some really intense therapy to just.. My whole goal was just to die at peace. I knew that death was something we had to look at. Cody had been talking about these therapists and watching these documentaries about healing. This was before I even got sick he was talking to me about these things. And at some point he said, “What do you think about going and doing some therapy sessions with, her name is DeAnn?” I said, “You know what, why not? I have nothing to lose.” Let me just try it. I had done therapy my entire life. I was raised by a therapist, but this was a different type of thing. She has a track record of working with people with cancer, with terminal cancer, and then them making a full recovery.
Becca: So in the beginning my family said, “That feels like a lot of pressure you are putting on yourself to heal.” I was like, “No no no, I am trying to heal my heart, because when I die, I want to be at peace in my heart. I am not doing this to medically heal myself, I’m doing this to heal my heart.” So I started doing weekly calls with her, she’s located in California so it was all Zoom, and really started doing some inner child work on healing. It was very interesting for me because I came from a very traditional, normal family. No trauma, none of the things, like Bill who had childhood cancer, I didn’t come from divorced parents. There was nothing that I thought needed healing except there were so many things that I held on to and beliefs I held on to about myself that have been limiting me my entire life. And holding me back and causing the chokehold that I had with fear and anxiety to be exacerbated. All of my stubbornness and having to prove myself and all of those Enneagram 8 things.
Chris: Which we both are, for those listening. We are both 8s.
Becca: I was channeling those qualities in such a negative way that I was holding on to so many negative beliefs and limiting beliefs, that I was never as authentic as I thought I was being. So through, go gosh like, 15-20 sessions, I worked with her for over a year,
Chris: And weekly that whole time?
Becca: No, in the beginning it was weekly, then it was every other week, and then monthly, or as I needed.
Chris: Yeah, that’s how our therapy was right after the fire. I think the first couple of weeks she said she wanted to us multiple times a week, but I was, and now I can say it, I was suicidal at that point. I was ready to, like, because I had caused the fire, so I was like “I don’t need to exist, they don’t, why am I even here, because this is all my fault.” I think she saw that in us and was like “OK.” And Bill was dealing with PTSD because he was in the house, it was just like, “Yeah, no, I need to make sure that you guys are alive.” I know that now, but I think there are so many people who go through traumatic experiences and they say “Yeah I can deal with this, I am strong!” No, you are not. You need, everybody needs, that outside opinion and viewpoint on what’s happening. And someone to just hold your hand through the process and to ask you questions to make you think differently.
Becca: And to make you see the blindspots
Becca: There was so much that I was like, “No that’s fine. I don’t need to talk about this experience in my childhood.” And she was, “Nah, I think, I think you do.” So we would do, it was very cool, it’s very non-traditional therapy. And just process through those. And through all of those experiences I really was able to release a lot and shift even more. You know, in the beginning of the diagnosis we shifted our priorities, right, what was important? Just us. That’s it. Staying alive, having a good time together. That was the utmost important thing. But then, at some point, it was “Ok, but how do we live authentically and how do we live fully by prioritizing time and each other?” So those are the kinds of things that developed as time went on. Listening to the God nudges, or the signs of the universe, whatever you call it. Instead of fighting against them, embracing them and listening to them.
Chris: A hundred percent
Becca: The first example that I can think of where we really listened, other than picking up and moving to Houston,
Chris: Which is major!
Becca: It was when I was in the hospital with RSV, so right in the beginning of moving to Houston. We had enrolled Robbie in a daycare and I didn’t want to. My plan was I wanted to homeschool him, but I had been working previously so it wasn’t really something that we could think about. But we enrolled hi in school, because it was what people did. It was what 3 years olds were supposed to do. They were supposed to go to daycare.
Chris: Yeah, in the midst of all this trauma you are trying to do the most normal thing for him, right.
Becca: Except uprooting him to a new city, with new people, and no one he knows. Let’s throw him into a school now.
Chris: So he was 3 by this point correct?
Becca: Yes, no he was still 2. I was in the hospital and we were enrolling him in school. We had toured it, we had showed him “This is going to be your new school!” It was right by our apartment. We were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing, because it was what everyone else does. And then I ended up with RSV in the hospital and was, “Let’s pump the breaks. He’s going to be bringing home all these viruses from daycare. What are we doing?”
Chris: Ohhhh yeah
Becca: I thought this is not actually what I want to do. I said, “Cody I think we need to think about this, I think this is, I think this hospitalization is a sign for us to reevaluate.” And so we pulled him. He never went. We pulled him. Great decision. We’ve noticed a couple of times, in the past couple of years, when we start getting caught up in the “keeping up with what everyone else is doing” the universe, or God, will stop us. It’s like now we can finally see the opportunities that are there and pause and say, “What is this? What can we learn from this? What are we trying to do? What’s our real goal here? Not what everyone else is doing, not what we think our parents would want us to do, not what we think society wants us to do. What is true to us?” And that’s all that matters.
Chris: Is that something y’all would have asked yourselves before the diagnosis?
Becca: I think we would have asked ourselves, yes, knowing Cody and I. We were both very in tune with things, but I don’t think we would have followed through.
Becca: I think we probably would have both gone against what felt true, just because it would keep up with, and I don’t even mean just “Keeping up with the Joneses” like in a financial standpoint. But, this is where you go to school because this is where everyone else went to school. This is what you do because this is what your sisters did, or your parents did, or whatever. We’ve been able to really look at situations and say, “What’s the lesson here? Before we make some crazy decision, let’s think about what we want and what will bring us the most joy and what will make us feel the most true to ourselves.” That has been since the diagnosis and that has been since shifting our perspective and doing a lot of work to heal my heart. Cody too. Cody worked with the same therapist. We just did it separately.
Chris: I remember our therapist talking about, I don’t even remember at what point in our journey, this may have been more recent, but we were talking about traumas. For Bill and I, we experienced the exact same trauma, our house burned down, but for us, I was the cause, he was inside the house when it burned. So while it’s the same trauma, we are experiencing very different things. And then she compared that to someone, like in y’alls situation, where in a couple one gets a terminal diagnosis, they’re not experiencing that personally, but they are experiencing it adjacent to the diagnosis. And so, it’s the same trauma. Very different experiences, obviously.
Becca: Totally different. In a situation like we have, where I am the patient essentially, I think Cody, as the caregiver, has a way harder role. I think his burden is so much heavier, and his stress is so much heavier because he is the one who takes care of me if I’m sick, or if I need and he’s the one who is going to be left. What a stress that must feel like that I have no concept of.
Becca: I never think about, “Well, he’ll be gone soon so I need to think about all of these future plans.” I don’t have that. I think a spouse, or a caregiver, has a way harder and way more stressful experience.
Chris: I think it’s just different. It’s the same trauma but it’s different. It’s like you are experiencing in it a completely different way. Y’all are living differently, you’re making these changes, you’re doing things for you, you’re really introspective on a lot of situations. What’s happening with your health at this point?
Becca: Coincidentally, or not coincidentally, since I started doing some really deep healing work, I have also been doing a lot better physically. It really started at the exact same time. My physical symptoms improving and my emotional, spiritual and mental capacity kind of becoming more free and more authentic. Like I had said, at that point I was on oxygen almost continuously. And pretty much from that moment on, I started decreasing my need for oxygen to the point where I never need it during, or rarely, rarely, rarely need it during the day.
Chris: Which, I have to say, when my mom goes in and they ask, “Well, how much oxygen are you on?” And she says, “only as needed,” and the doctors say, “but your chart says you are on full time.” She’s had so many people, so many doctors and nurses and people with Interstitial Lung Disease who have said “You never get off oxygen, this is not a thing that happens.” I think that it’s incredible and very important to note that you changed the way you were thinking, and that changed your body. We are seeing more and more research coming out that says our thinking has a huge effect on what happens inside of our body. Dr. Caroline Leaf, I don’t know if you have heard about her, she’s incredible and does a lot of talk about how healing our minds can heal our bodies. They have done studies about people under massive stress and they are the people who are having high blood pressure, and all these other, heart disease and all these other things. There is so much about how our brain is functioning that affects how our body is functioning. For you to be diagnosed, and to be where you are, and then make the steps to change your brain and your heart, and your internal self and at the same time start to see improvements in your health, is incredibly noteworthy.
Becca: Yeah, totally. It’s miraculous honestly.
Chris: And it’s honestly the exact same experience my mom had. She was on full time oxygen, she was like, “Look, I just need to change the way I am thinking. I need to think positively.” She did a lot of work too, as far as making sure she was exercising every day and doing her breathing exercises and all of these things, but it was when she started changing her brain and the way she was thinking that her oxygen dependence started to decrease.
Becca: I think to, we talk a lot, Cody and I, in depth about this experience and my actual lungs look the exact same as they did 2 years ago. That has not miraculously gotten better. But that has never felt like part of the journey for us. I don’t feel like that is supposed to get miraculously better. I mean, it is permanent, but even in the miracles that do happen, that doesn’t feel like part of our story. The miracle is what has happened that last 2 years. The miracle is us living authentically and us healing our hearts and us being happier and living, having the best years of our lives these last 2 years. That is the miracle. Yes, there is always the possibility that I will get, if and when I get sicker and I get any kind of respiratory, there’s always the chance I end up back to where I was, and that’s ok because that might be part of the process. That might be part of our story, but the miracle is the healing that we’ve done together. The emotional healing. That’s what it has always been about, healing our hearts not the disease.
Chris: I think your body getting better was a byproduct of you healing your mind. Which is so cool! What if we all start doing that? What if everybody takes some time, our therapist and I were talking about this recently. I said, “Marla, what if when people are sick, or depressed, what if they were prescribing regular therapy? Or what if it was part of our insurance plans that everybody covered even just 1 therapy session a month. If you have chiropractic coverage they say “You get 25 sessions a year” what if that was same for therapy?” She told me there are countries that do that and they have lots of statistics that they have better mental health as a country overall. And I was, “Ok, so that is a thing. Who can make that happen?” Call your representatives! Anyway, so you guys have, in the course of a very short amount of time from what I am hearing
Becca: It hasn’t even been 2 years yet. We are coming up to the 2 year mark. We like to joke about it as “The Death Date.”
Becca: It is approaching our 2 year mark from when everything happened and when they told me I would have 1 to 2 years to live if I didn’t get a transplant. With that also comes some anxiety, the upcoming death date, the anticipatory grief and the date.
Chris: I have to tell you today is the anniversary of our fire.
Becca: Is it really?
Chris: Yeah. Six years today I think we are at. It’s interesting because last year we forgot. So, I have to say, it comes to this point where, you know, the first anniversary there was all this anticipation, and we were rebuilding at that point, I think we had the sticks up. The second there was all this anticipation and the third all this anticipation. By the fifth one, we were camping and sitting around the campfire, and again, we have changed our whole lives and are in this different space. We are sitting around the campfire and I was, “Oh, wait. It’s the 10th. Today is the day.” I knew it was coming this year because I had mentally, but, I’m ok. And as time goes on and you do the work, I think that’s the key, it’s not just that time is healing, because time alone does not bring healing, time plus work is healing.
Becca: Yeah, we haven’t even been 2 years yet, which is wild to think about and just the different people that we were 2 years ago versus who we are now.
Chris: What are the most notable things that you feel have changed in who you guys are and how you live?
Becca: I think by softening my heart I also softened my spirit and my personality. And in kind of an opposite way, Cody has become more steadfast in who he is and more sure of himself and more decisive. We lean into our opposites, he and I, and balance each other out. Where is used to be really hard on the exterior, I have softened and where he used to be soft has hardened, in all of the most beautiful ways. Which has been really great for our marriage too. Also for him in his profession and as a dad. Another big one is how I am as a mom. I think that’s probably number 1 that has transformed. I was a terrible new born mom. Maybe not terrible, but I really was.
Chris: You felt you were terrible
Becca: I did not thrive in the new born stage
Chris: Oh, I didn’t either.
Becca: I did not thrive in the 1 year old stage, I did not thrive in the 2 year old stage. I thought I was gonna like these toddler years and I didn’t. But I had so much stress and limiting beliefs, looking back they were suffocating beliefs that I had about myself that no one else had about me it was just me. They made me irritable and short tempered with him and not loving and patient and kind, I mean loving yes, but not as soft as I could have been with him. Now, I think part of it is because the older he gets, you know because kids are easier as they get older and can do for themselves. I now have so much patience as a mom now. My patience, my tolerance, my ability to just let him be him and figure things out on his terms. My role as a mom has been the most transformative and Cody would agree.
Chris: I see that in your Instagram. You post these pictures and he’s sitting on the counter and y’all are baking bread and he’s covered in flour. My brain goes, “I could never do that.” I mean I know I could because we have done crazy things like that, but you are just so engaged with him and you’re allowing him to explore and I think it is absolutely stupendous.
Becca: It’s wonderful. Honestly, being his mom and channeling what we have and the freedom that we both have, he’s very much like me, he’s got the same temper, he’s got the same “errrr” in him. When we are both together it just works. It has just been so fun to soften myself, to have love and kindness and patience. Now it’s not all of the time obviously.
Chris: We are all real people that have other feelings.
Becca: He taps out pretty much my 6:30 every evening.
Chris: So, this is a hard question, but I am asking it to most of our guests, is if you had control, if you had never gone through the hospitalization and the diagnosis and everything, would you choose that and undo everything you learned?
Becca: Would I choose to undo it?
Becca: Absolutely not. I would 100 percent go through it all again and stay exactly where we are right now. It was all worth it. All of it was worth it. Every single anxiety attack, every single fear, every single thing that we still feel and process is all worth it to be where we are.
Chris: That’s beautiful.
Becca: I can think of nothing that I wish were different, honestly. It’s funny because there are so many things that happened before all of this that set us up for conversations and things that have happened. Before, when I was working, I worked for hospice so I was having conversations about death literally all day every day.
Chris: Isn’t it wild how the things that we’re doing that just seem like, “Oh this is just a thing that I am doing right now” when you are further down your path of life and you turn around to look, you say “oh, I get what that was preparing me for. Cool.”
Becca: Even in that we were able to have conversations about death and dying and end of life care stuff so naturally because it was part of who I was as a social worker at that time. All of it, everything, has happened so perfectly and beautifully to lead us here that no, I would never change an of it. And we love living in Houston.
Becca: This is what we were missing. I think we just needed Houston in our lives.
Chris: Houston is secretly cool. I would like to keep it a secret because there are so many people moving here. You are allowed to stay though Becca. Houston is just this really, and I knew it. I grew up here so I knew how culturally amazing it is. The food scene here is incredible. Music, art, all of it makes it a great place to live.
Becca: We absolutely love it. I was listed as active on the transplant list when we moved here. You could get a call at any moment, you always have to have your phone on. Cody has to have his phone on, my mom has to have her phone on. No drinking, no leaving
Chris: It’s very strict
Becca: Very, very, very strict. And also very anxiety provoking. Any time your phone rang it could be them. I went from being active on the transplant list from May to October. In October they listed me as inactive because I had started doing better. They said, “We don’t want to rush a transplant because the new lungs are good, but they are not as good as your lungs.” So from October until, actually no one really knows this news yet, from October until January 30th I am no longer on a transplant list.
Chris: Oh my gosh! That’s wild!
Becca: It’s very exciting. Now I will be in the advanced lung disease clinic. Which is what your mom is in. Even before I was not on the transplant list anymore, or listed as an active, we were in love with Houston. We said let’s buy a house. We are going to settle some roots down here. We love it! We fell in love with the city. That was probably all irrelevant but
Chris: No, it’s beautiful! I have so many friends who are from here or have lived in Texas and have never left Houston, even me, when I left I said, “I’m never going back there!” I moved to Oklahoma and was never going to live in Houston again. That was the end. For real Oklahoma is, Oklahomans don’t hate me, not Houston. It’s not the worst, but it wasn’t great. But I really was never moving back here and it took a very traumatic event to get me back here. Now that I am back, I would never leave again unless life led me in that direction.
Becca: Exactly, I have learned to not say that I am never leaving a place.
Chris: Every “never thing” I have ever said has happened!
Becca: The universe has a way of showing you.
Chris: Oh, yeah. We’ve talked. I love ocean animals, but the idea of SCUBA diving freaks me smooth out. I’m not a SCUBA diver, I’m not gonna do it. And here we are talking about going to take SCUBA diving classes because my daughter wants to get certified. And so it’s like, “OK” and you just go. I think before the fire I would have been freaking out, but now I’m just “Meh, alright, let’s do this. This is the thing that’s happening now.”
Becca: Cody used to always say, “I would love to live in a big city” and I was always “Absolutely not. Not happening.” We were in cahoots with each other and some family and we were talking about buying some property and getting a cow and some chickens and living the thing that I thought was my dream. And I think the universe was like, “Uh uh! We are not going down this road!” God was like “We have other plans.” I really believe that He was “No, no you need something hard and fast to stop you in these plans that you think you are making. We are not having any of that. You are going a different path. So let’s not think that you are about to go liven the country, raising some chickens and a dairy cow. You are going to live in the city and you are going to fall in love and you are never gonna want to leave.”
Chris: And here I am, I grew up as an Inner Looper in Houston, if you are from here you know what that means, but I was, “I will never live in the suburbs” but here I am living in the suburbs. Fourteen years! What?!? But, just never say never. It’s just not a thing that we should say anymore.
Chris: So you have a Youtube channel and an Instagram and all of these other fun things.
Becca: Aww, I had forgotten about my Youtube channel. \
Chris: Where can people find you?
Becca: On Instagram my handle is thisblissfulpursuit. Through that we have link to our blog and our website which is thisblissfulpursuit.com. On the website we have access to our Youtube channel which really just gives the whole story of diagnosis, a lot of medical updates, because there were a lot of people back home who have been curious and we didn’t share a whole lot in the beginning because it was just too much. So we had fun making these videos and really explaining what happened in the journey. And now we just do it whenever we feel like, which hasn’t been in a long time but that’s where we are.
Chris: Cool. Well, thank you so much for doing this and being vulnerable and sharing your story. The whole point of this is that people hear these stories and find their own healing within them or their own encouragement. I know that yours will be one of those. Thank you.
Becca: You’re welcome. Thank you. This was so much fun.
Chris: Thank you some much for being here and listening to my words and sharing in these stories. I hope you will join me in coming episodes as we hear the stories of real people and how they became Stronger Than. If you’re excited about this podcast, would you consider leaving a rating or review or sharing a link to it on your social media. These things help podcasters and creators so much. Stronger Than is real stories from real people edited and hosted by me, Chris Sizemore. Original Music by Rob McCathren. If you want to learn more about us and our story you can find us on our blog strongerthanfire.com or on Instagram at strongerthanfire.
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