Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How embarrassing...

Over the course of the last 3 weeks or so, I seem to have turned into Miserable Lung Lady.  Okay, I first typed Lung Cripple, then thought better of it, in case someone who has a genuine physical disability happened upon this post and got offended.
 
Asthma.  Again.  Drat, drat, and more drat.  After 20 years of perfectly functional lungs, and only checking the box on medical questionnaires as a formality, this cold has knocked me out such that on any given day my lung capacity can veer wildly anywhere between 75 and 99%.
 
Two days last week, I was almost totally fine (I forget which days).
 
And then on Shabbos I walked to shul without the inhaler - honestly, I never take it anywhere with me except on major trips, and I usually forget it then, too, and sat wondering if I was going to DIE right there.  It eventually settled down to the point where I could go play with the kids, walk home, get ready for our guests, but sheesh.
 
The inhaler, which I got last December almost as an afterthought so I could take it with me when I had my belly button surgery, is getting way more use than I ever thought it would.  Like sometimes every 2-3 hours, which is definitely more than I should be using it.  Especially considering I hadn't even touched it between last December and last month.
 
Speaking of which, I have had this miserable, dropping-dead, wheezing, gasping, choking cold for over two weeks, and a certain person I have mentioned in past ought to be concerned about me has expressed absolutely ZERO concern about my well-being.  Today this person called and told me about an old friend who had a stroke, which of course was terrible news, but when I choked out how sorry I was and that I had to go feed the kids lunch because we were running around all morning, and broke down in an unstoppable coughing fit in the middle, well, this person was a LOT less than "personly" in her concern.  Sometimes, I think she lacks a "personly" bone in her body.  Not that I want to give away who  it was; I'll leave you guessing on that count. 
 
I will just mention this:  Sometimes, I feel like a "personless" child.  Like when I'm sick or my body hurts or taking care of four kids is WAY too much.
 
The problem is:  I seem to have cultivated the belief, deep down, that asthma is more a disease of character than of physiology.  Maybe I'm channelling my father, who was really very intolerant of physical illness, and made a point of rarely being ill himself.  I really have developed this idea that if I just settle down, take it easy, breathe gently, try not to cough, maybe sleep sitting up for a few days, maybe take some ibuprofen, it will go away on its own.
 
And sometimes, it works!
 
Like this morning.  Last night I told Ted at bedtime that if I woke up feeling miserable, I was going to the doctor instead of my aerobics class.  And guess what?  I felt, if not great, well-rested and eager to move around a bit after three weeks of Yom Tov.  Yes, I used the inhaler, and it got the creaky lungs inflated enough to get me there.  And although I was not doing well at the start of the class, I just took it slowly and by the end, I was up to 99% - almost full lung capacity, no wheezing.
 
I think what happens is that I use the inhaler, its efficacy peaks about an hour and a half later - or so - and then it's downhill from there.  Because by the time I got to the grocery store, I was already starting to get choked up again.
 
And YET.  I just feel like if I could stop myself from coughing (which irritates my lungs), it will all be okay.
 
Actually, tonight on the way home from class, when they were getting bad again (having peaked an hour or so into the class), I was going to stop in at Branson to get looked at.  But then on the news they said traffic was bad at Bathurst and Finch because of water main repairs, and then I wanted to hurry home to get here for the kiddies' bedtimes.  So I came straight home - only to find that Ted had put the littles to bed already.  It was too late to go to Branson; they're not an ER, and they close up shop at 9.
 
If it's still bad tomorrow, I am definitely calling my doctor's office.  I don't need to see her - it can take weeks to get in to see her - but anyone else there who can take a look and make sure everything's okay.
 
The big reason this symptom bothers me is - again - my father.  Who was a totally healthy guy in his 50s until he got a cold, with bronchitis, and walked around for a few weeks (maybe) with shortness of breath before he got it looked at.  Although it was a virus, it wasn't just a cold anymore; it was pericarditis - an infection of the sac surrounding his heart.  And the virus had done such significant damage in the time it had run rampant through his body that he was hospitalized in various ICUs and CCUs off and on for the next few years, until he eventually got it under control with the help of dozens of medications, an implanted defibrillator and a stubborn, stubborn exercise regimen that included biking to his cardiologist appointments downtown - and back.
 
So what I'm thinking is:  shortness of breath; nothing to mess around with.
While at the same time thinking:  shortness of breath; builds character.  Doesn't kill me; makes me stronger.
 
Ah, these voices in my head.  Must give them some rest so the saner ones prevail.
(I am joking!  Joke!!!  For those who have stumbled on this blog due to medical keywords or parenting tips, please accept my reassurance that there are no literal voices in my head.)
 
("voices" is therefore merely a metaphor for my sensible modern thought processes being overruled by the hardy stubbornness of my ancestral Polish Jews...)

1 comment:

  1. "I seem to have cultivated the belief, deep down, that asthma is more a disease of character than of physiology."

    I can so relate to this! Okay, as a smoker (even a light-ish one) I might not deserve much sympathy. Fine. But when I finally hauled myself to a doctor a few years ago, I got something even more helpful -- a puffer. Which I hadn't had since childhood (pre-smoking) and which helped me breathe and function again.

    The parental voices in my head (and otherwise) had offered nothing but personal recrimination, year after year, for the seasonal cold-induced hacking air-starved misery. And admittedly, my lifestyle has not been so conducive to respiratory health.

    But it never occurred to me that I didn't deserve to be sick.

    NOBODY "deserves" to be sick. Not even a smoking asthmatic. Not an IV drug user who contracts HIV; no one. I just can't buy the corollary: that good health is distributed to the "deserving" on the basis of virtue. (Does my boyfriend, a much heavier smoker, "deserve" to jog comfortably in cold weather while I'm sucking back steroids?)

    Anyway... Big topic, health and morality/character, so often conflated. And speaking of virtue, we're both quitting!

    But I think there's a difference between responsibility ("There are steps I need to take to avoid/improve health condition x") and blame ("Condition x is ALL MY FAULT!"). I guess in some cases it's harder to draw that line.

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