Tuesday 2 October 2018

When breathing becomes work

Last Saturday I went hiking with a couple of co-workers. It was a glorious day, and we happily set off on one of the many hills surrounding our town. The sun was shining, the leaves had fully changed colour, and within the first 5 minutes we watched a beaver busily swimming in a little pond, no doubt doing important beaver business. 
Because the trail was narrow we hiked single file, with me being in the middle. 

Within minutes of walking uphill, I started wheezing. I've had that wheezing for months now, but only when I walk uphill, run, or do something else strenuous. Embarrassed about my old-lady breathing, I tried to keep the wheeze down, which only made it worse. My hiking companion up front started looking around worriedly. 
"Do you hear that?" she asked, not breaking strike. "Is there a bear nearby?"
I started laughing. "No, that's my breathing," I told them. "I'm the bear."
We stopped, and I explained to them about the shortness of breath I experience whenever I exercise. 
"You have exercise-induced asthma," the nurse said decisively.  
I had  never heard of it. "That's a thing?" I asked her, equally astonished and hopeful. Yes, it is, and yes, that's indeed what I have. And up until that hike I had no idea. 
The wheezing started sometime in the spring, about 6 months ago. I have been in denial for months, blaming it on being out of shape since I didn't have a daily exercise routine for a while, and hoping it would go away. 
It hasn't. 
I went to our doctor a few times, describing the symptoms. However, whenever I see him I'm fine, since I'm sitting quietly in my chair, not doing any physical exercise. My breathing is a-okay in his office and my lungs looked perfectly fine on the 2 chest x-rays he ordered over the course of a few months. I guess I should have dropped on the floor and given him a dozen push-ups, but we're always smarter in hindsight, right? 

For a while I thought I may be allergic to hay, since the wheeze always starts when I feed the animals in the morning. But since our property is on a hill and you always have to go up an incline, the hay was just a coincidence, and the real culprit was the exercise part. 
Yesterday at work I had a few patients in a row that were difficult to do, and between the lifting, running around, and trying to do 5 things at once my breathing was worse than ever. One of the nurses gave me an inhaler because it was so bad, and I guess I have to start carrying one around on my walks and hikes. 

I never realized how lucky I've been up to now for having a healthy body. My mind may be a bit broken, but my body has been extraordinarily good to me, which I took for granted. We all do, because you don't notice something that isn't there - like the absence of pain, or the absence of having to work to get air into your lungs. 
It seems like my free ride is over, because I don't think there's a cure for asthma. 

Of all the illnesses in the world this is not the worst one to get, but boy oh boy, it's weird when breathing becomes work. 
Judging from the quick google-search I did exercise is still recommended, so I guess Darth Vader-style breathing will become part of my charm from now on.

The good news is that I'm not allergic to hay! Fresh hay is one of my favourite smells in the world, and I'm glad I can still enjoy it in the future - while sitting quietly, of course 😉

xoxo Miriam

Top image found here.



  1. That's so crazy! I've never heard of exercise-induced asthma before. I thought exercise was supposed to help you be healthier? The good news is, you can still do yoga!!!
    I love these pictures, and the idea of hiking. The idea. (lol). If I wasn't such a bug magnet/didn't have such a small bladder/didn't have seasonal allergies, I might enjoy it a bit more. I'm glad you do!


    1. It's my favourite kind of exercise! (Besides yoga, of course.) The god news is that the bugs have all disappeared, since fall decided to be unseasonably cold and snowy (as of today!) this year.
      But yeah, who knew that EIA is a thing (I certainly didn't). Makes me feel guilty about all the (many, many!) times where I didn't take advantage of my healthy lungs. Oh well, I guess that's what inhalers are for, right?!

  2. I have something similar at times, sometimes anxiety induced and sometimes exercise induced, but nobody has ever been able to declare it asthma. I was given an inhaler by a doctor as a teenager for it, just because he believed me when I said I was having breathing trouble. That thing is a lifesaver the couple of times of year that I reach for it!

    1. That's good to know! My doctor never mentioned exercise-induced asthma, but the nurse did right away upon hearing my (pretty intense) wheezing. It definitely makes the most sense to me! I have an inhaler that I'm supposed to use for a month straight to see if it will clear up any infection, and I will use it, but I'm not convinced that it will solve the problem. Only time will tell!
      I hope your little man is making an appearance ASAP! You must be beyond anxious to meet him.

  3. I’m glad you have an answer for the shortness of breath! It is so scary to struggle to breathe. Keep an inhaler in your purse, with you when you work out, in your car...so you’re always prepared.

    1. I will for sure! It's a very unsettling feeling. But I'm glad it's nothing more serious, and I'll try not to use it as an excuse NOT to do any heavy lifting too often ;-)

  4. This is totally a thing! I experience it all the time! It's why I don't run. Also because running is the worst.

    1. I agree! I've always hated running, and now I have a legit reason not to 🙌


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