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My Little Black Book


How many people do you know who are actually willing to share their little black book? Well, I do it all of the time. Get your head out of the gutter. I'm not talking about a hooker call list or anything like that although it is just as personal. My little black book is actually my medical journal-turned-diary. It is a reminder of my journey and is turning out sometimes to be a pretty valuable tool for my doctors. I'm sharing some things about this book of mine because I think everyone with a chronic medical condition should have one.

My little black book is an evolution of casual record keeping. I initiated it to prepare myself for doctors visits related to an autoimmune disease diagnosis I was handed in 1994 at the age of 35. This nasty disease ultimately led to a dual lung transplant. 'Dermatomyositis' they labeled it; a hard word to spell and even harder to comprehend. I had to write it down just to remind myself of what ailed me so I could answer properly when people asked. The path to diagnosis was loaded with questions from an army of physicians. I had my own questions for them too. It didn't take long for me to realize that I had better start writing down every little thing ... my questions, their answers, treatment attempts, marked changes in my condition and so on.

Fast-forward to post-lung transplant. An accidental medical history, this little black book keeps me straight when doctors and nurses ask those inevitable questions that push your memory to its outer boundaries. What were the symptoms? When did you first notice them? How long did they last? Or, they might ask, "What did I prescribe for you the last time that happened?" Just today my dermatologist asked me how many times he had biopsied a spot on my face. (Wouldn't that be in their records? Just saying!) And then there are those medication changes called out during your appointment ... What did he say? Bump and taper what? I have always found these details so difficult to recall but have a full appreciation for their importance. Writing them down became imperative.

Sixteen years post-transplant, I still keep this little gem near my bedside. I don't write in it every day but I keep reasonable score on my spirometer, blood pressure, blood sugar, medication changes and unusual symptoms or issues, all of which turn out to be good information to have on hand for my doctor visits. My little black book will also reveal much lagniappe precious only to me. A peek inside would reveal a few of my favorite inspirational messages, names of books suggested by my transplant peers as we share the waiting room during our well check-ups, a history of gas prices over the years of my commute from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi to Galveston, Texas and other trivial stuff; but, to me, my little black book is priceless.

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Disclosure Statement: The author has no conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, to disclose.

Beth Keith and Larry, her husband of nearly 30 years, reside on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She is a CPA and he is a marine surveyor. Keeping them busy are three awesome children: 2nd Lt. Paul Keith, U.S.M.C.; Camille, a recent graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi employed as an accountant; and Miriam, a junior in high school with a passion for volleyball and western barrel racing. Miriam was barely 16 months old when Beth received her dual lung transplant; Paul and Camille were 7 and 5 years old, respectively. Rounding out the Keith family are rescue pup, Brees; horse, Reuben; and blue and gold macaw, Mia. Beth, Larry and their children love all forms of music and spend much of their time attending music events. Boating is also on their list of outdoor pleasures. Beth also loves to read and is known to paint old furniture when someone else will clean up after her.