Illustrated oxygen tank sitting in a chair alone looking bored.

Vanity

I don’t care what anyone says, men are way more vain than women.

At least this one is.

Embarassed about oxygen

It’s one of the reasons – scratch that – it’s the ONLY reason I could not bring myself to start using oxygen in public. I was totally embarrassed to be seen with a cannula stuck up my nose.

When I was first diagnosed, my pulmonologist prescribed oxygen to sleep with and then had my daytime needs evaluated.

In 2011, I still didn’t need oxygen to get around during the day. I wasn’t running marathons or anything. Just walking to the train for my morning commute and even that didn’t involve a whole lot of walking – the train station in town is literally down the block from our home.

But I carried a small B tank in my backpack, “just in case.” I never used it. I can remember thinking about a year later that it might be a good idea to check to see if it was still full of oxygen (it was).

But gradually, as things progressed, I could feel myself getting short of breath and around 2015, I began to use oxygen on a regular basis, particularly if I was working around the house and garden.

And in the summers, with the heat and the humidity, I began to use it more and more frequently. And that is when I became self-conscious about how I looked.

So I stayed home

As a result, I would stay home while my wife and sometimes my kids went out to see family, attend weddings – just “hang out with the gang.” I really did miss being there. I come from a big, extended family and we are very close, even though we are spread across the country.

Instead of being with them all, I watched abysmal television programming – anything that would distract me while friends and family gathered and enjoyed each other’s company as I believe we, as human beings, are meant to do.

Until a good friend of mine set me straight

One night after my wife and daughter left for a friend’s son’s graduation celebration, another buddy dropped by.

“What are you doing?” Frank asked.
“What do you mean?” I asked Frank.
“You gonna sit here and feel sorry for yourself forever?” he continued.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.

My wife had told Frank about my embarrassment about having to wear the cannula and the oxygen.

“Look,” he said. “You’re so ugly already, who is going to notice?” (He really did say that).

I’ve known Frank my entire life so I laughed whole-heartedly.

“C’mon. Get the oxygen and the tube (cannula) and meet me outside,” he said.

And I did

We went to the celebration.

Thank goodness it wasn’t 100 degrees and 100% humidity like it had been for most of the summer here in the Northeast.

I walked into my friend’s backyard wearing the cannula and carried my “D” tank in an old backpack. I was very nervous. I looked for my wife and saw her. She smiled.

Everything stopped, (including the music, I think). All eyes were on me.

I got a standing ovation. Breathe.

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