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‘InRepair’and100Stairs:WhyIHauledmyOxygenTankUpSeveralFlightsofStairs

Serena Lawrence
Serena Lawrence Freelance Writer and Editor
8mo Canada Story
‘In Repair’ and 100 Stairs: Why I Hauled my Oxygen Tank Up Several Flights of Stairs

Yesterday I went all the way to Toronto. It was my second time going there for something non-medical-related since being diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. I remember wondering if I would ever be able to go back to do something ‘normal,’ or to do something that I enjoy ever again. I went to see Our Lady Peace at Massey Hall, so I was able to explore Young Street a little bit before the concert. Another small win for me.

Have you ever been to Massey Hall? It is a historic concert hall that originally opened in 1894 — the oldest concert hall in Canada. The venue is so treasured that it is both a heritage site and a national historic site. Do you know what all of this means? Massey Hall does not need to be accessible. Massey Hall is not accessible.

If you do not get seats on the main floor you are screwed, and that is exactly what happened to me. Spencer and his friend warned me before they purchased the tickets that we would be up at the top balcony. I was familiar with Massey Hall because I had been there previously, and knew what this meant. Stairs. Lots of them.

I was faced with two options. Miss out on a concert I wanted to see because of all the stairs, which would have been the logical thing to do. My second option was to say “screw it,” and do it even though that’s probably against logic, and well against better judgment. By now you know what option I went with.

Yes, I went with option No. 2. I said YOLO (the poor man’s carpe diem), and we got tickets and to see Our Lady Peace at Massey Hall anyway. I wasn’t going all the way there without getting a shirt, so we went to the basement inside Massey Hall to get one. I added another flight of stairs to the never-ending stairs I had to conquer.

The lights flashed and we heard the chime to let us know the show was about to start. It was time to freaking do this. I stared up at my opponent. I had read online how inaccessible the building is for people with disabilities, and not to bother if you have balcony seats and can’t do stairs. (Did I mention we got seats in the highest balcony?) I looked up and laughed. I thought, “What was I thinking when I said I could do this?” I looked up at an endless spiral of staircases. I was fortunate enough not to need my oxygen while wandering Toronto during the day, but I get short of breath at night, so I would have brought it regardless of the stair situation. I cranked my oxygen flow up and said, “LET’S DO THIS!”

Long haul up the stairs

Two flights of stairs later, “I am just gonna take a breather.” Luckily my boyfriend and his friend are understanding, and didn’t mind waiting for me while I stood at the bottom of another staircase questioning what the heck I was doing with my life. Repeat this step 8 times, and we finally made it to the last flight of stairs. A woman around my age wore heels and was starting to pass us. I could see that she was over this staircase from hell, too. She looked at me and said, “OH MY GOD!” I laughed. She felt my pain. She waited for me to my haul ass up the stairs just to keep the door open. (Thanks, girl!)

We found our seats and I hid my oxygen under my seat. I checked my oxygen sats and heart rate, and they looked good. My body really seems to react positively to fun experiences, so maybe the risk was worth the reward. Once Our Lady Peace began it all started to feel worth it. I stood up and sang to every song, and it felt great to be surrounded by music and the history of the building. I even liked looking down at a sea of people, and admiring the architecture of the Massey Hall. Our Lady Peace sounded unbelievable, and for a moment I was transported back to 1996. (Side note: Raine Maida, what anti-aging moisturizer do you use? Please let me know so I can purchase the same one and be an eternal ageless rock god of the 90s. Thanks.)

For their set I wasn’t sick, but I was reminded that people do worry about me and that I do have pulmonary hypertension. Raine Maida spoke a little bit before a song, explaining how he wrote it during a time in life when he realized everyone around him was getting sick and even dying. I knew what song this was leading to, (“In Repair,” one of my favorites.) During his talk, my boyfriend leaned over and gave me a tender kiss on my cheek and rubbed my hand. I hate that I think of myself when someone talks about illness and death. I hate that he thinks of it, too. It hurts. It stinks. It sucks. I was brought back to reality. I have pulmonary hypertension and my oxygen tank is shoved under my seat.

The night ended and I put back on my oxygen, and a surgical mask because of the crowd of people that I would be swimming down the stairs with. (Thankfully, going down the stairs is a breeze for me.) Overall, I am glad I conquered several flights of stairs to try and maintain little parts of my old life that I enjoyed.

I know things are harder and riskier now. Nearly every aspect of my life has changed in my post-pulmonary hypertension life, but I’ve learned to do what I can while I can. Part of me still hopes that I will get a little better, live a little longer, and live a little better. To end, I would like to share a part of “In Repair” that really resonates with me. I don’t want to believe that my body is done repairing itself, which is why I still have hope that maybe things can still get a little better.

I’m in repair
The life that we share
I know that I’ll be lost in
But we’re always in repairImage title

*This was originally published on Pulmonary Hypertension News

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2 comments

  • Jennifer Ridgeworth

    You are a brave young woman and truly admirable. An inspiration. Do you think there will ever be a cure for this disease?

    You are a brave young woman and truly admirable. An inspiration. Do you think there will ever be a cure for this disease?

    • Serena Lawrence
      Serena Lawrence Freelance Writer and Editor
      8mo ago

      Thank you for the kind words. I am not sure, I've never seen a cure for non infectious diseases in my lifetime. Being that PH is considered rare, it's also difficult to get the funding needed to create better medications, or even have access to them. (Medications for rare disease cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.) I dream of a cure, but hope to see better treatment become available to everyone to make it more of a managed disease and less of a fatal disease.

      Thank you for the kind words. I am not sure, I've never seen a cure for non infectious diseases in my lifetime. Being that PH is considered rare, it's also difficult to get the funding needed to create better medications, or even have access to them. (Medications for rare disease cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.) I dream of a cure, but hope to see better treatment become available to everyone to make it more of a managed disease and less of a fatal disease.


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Serena Lawrence
Freelance Writer and Editor

Tea snob and pastry enthusiast. Artist turned activist. Boston Terrier mama and bubble bath queen. Raising awareness, advocacy and patient support for pulmonary hypertension.

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