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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Asthma update

Not sure if I've ever discussed this, but I have asthma. I have had it since I was 4 years old, and unlike most children, my symptoms worsened with age, rather than improved. Then again, it was a hundred or so years ago, and attitude about asthma was much different.

First off, it was all in our heads. If we just "relaxed" we'd be fine. I refused to go to sleep during bad attacks, as I was convinced I'd never wake back up again...oh, so relaxing, kneeling in a ball on my bed, willing myself to breathe!!

Most of the fast acting inhalers and meds gave such bad tremors, it was almost better wheezing! I didn't shiver when I was cold, I convulsed.

Don't do ANYTHING to provoke an attack. That meant no running, jumping, playing outside in the spring/summer/fall/winter for me! Good times.

I am allergic to everything I inhale...fur/feather bearing creatures (yes, I have cats...there has been a cat (or two) and/or dog in my life EVERY.SINGLE.DAY since I was born - I know no other lifestyle, and I won't have it any other way), smoke, exhaust, carpet dust, upholstery dust, dust dust, trees, flowers,'s a large list and incredibly difficult/frustrating to avoid. Could I be allergic to chocolate or pie?! No... The allergist suggested that at the tender age of 17 I move out of my parent's home into someplace made of steel and glass (I can only assume), but when pressed for how I would pay rent, he clammed right up. Three years of weekly allergy shots later, and I am exactly as I was.

So, I grew up afraid to do anything, with the shakes and growing larger and larger by the day. I used to go through a Ventolin inhaler in TWO weeks. An entire inhaler! My mom thought I was addicted to it...I said I was addicted to breathing! Once I got into my 30's, I resigned myself that I was asthmatic. I saw a specialist briefly, before he moved to Toronto, and his replacement was an utter ass. I'd rather wheeze, thank you very much.

I wasn't a slug, but I wasn't exactly active either. But I felt I had a handle on this whole asthma thing, and lived my life. Then one day I saw an ad for a study group, to test a new asthma med. I thought "hey, I'm a bad asthmatic, in the sense that I need to give back to our community...I should volunteer for this". Off to the hospital I went, to the research centre. Met with the nurse at the clinic, and after answering some questions, we got down to the Pulmonary Function Test, or PFT. If you've never had one, do try it one day. After plugging your nose, you are handed a mouth piece attached to a gizmo and a computer. With your lips wrapped around the tube, you take a very deep breath in, and then blast it out as fast as you can, and then keep breathing out until you see stars and are about to black out!!! While I'm sure it's only for 10-15 seconds, it feels like an hour and I envision my lungs collapsing in on themselves while I run out of air! Anyway, PFT completed, and the nurse looks at me and asks "how are you feeling?". Um, other than a little light-headed right now, fine. "Really???" Um, yes...why do you ask and why are you reaching for the code blue button!? Turns out what I thought was "fine" was 1.28L of air in my lungs...or 1/3 of what a normal person breathes with. ONE THIRD! Yikes!!! I did not get in the study, but I did get referred to my current specialist, who is Da Man!! Mixed up my meds, got me on a solid program and voila. That was about 14 years ago now, and today my PFT had me at 2.43L, or in the high 80% range. I will never be 100%, and by the sounds of things, I may never reach the 90's either, as years of ignoring or not treating properly have resulted in permanent damage to my lungs. However, I run marathons. I do boot camps and sometimes even keep up with the "youngins", and I live my life, my way, every single day. Oh, and the inhalers??? I now have to take expired ones back to the pharmacist, as I basically only use them pre-runs. Can't remember the last time I had to stop and use the rescue inhaler for an actual attack.

Take that, asthma!


1 comment:

Nannie Jolin said...

Asthma is such a pain. Not only does it affect you body but your mind as well. I had it when I was young, and the humidifier became my best friend. Miraculously, my asthma went away permanently when I entered college. I don't know why, but I offered my deepest thanks to God. I hope you could also have that kind of miracle.