Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Breathless


It started so slowly that I didn't notice it at first.
I had a bit of a cough, but it was winter, and everybody had a cough. 
I got winded pushing a wheelbarrow up the hill, but I wasn't getting any younger, and it was winter, so I was probably just out of shape. 
I wheezed up a storm hiking up my favourite mountain on the first nice day of spring, but I hadn't hiked all winter, so again, I blamed it on being out of shape. 
(Winter is being blamed for a lot in my world.)

Spring turned into summer, and the wheeze didn't go away. But we had forest fires in BC, the air quality was poor, and lots of people wheezed. 
I had an excuse for everything, because I didn't want to face the fact that something wasn't right.  
But something wasn't, and it still isn't. I wake up every morning with a cough, not a bad one but a cough nonetheless. 
Last summer when I went hiking with a few coworkers they mistook my noisy breathing for a bear lurking in the bushes, scaring the living daylights out of them. 
I went to a few boxing classes at the end of last summer and I enjoyed them, but I had to quit going because I was too short of breath. Was that still a sign of being out of shape?
I walk 5-8 kilometers every day. I can do 30 push-ups, not the girly ones, but real push-ups. I'm strong and I like to break into spontaneous dance parties when I'm in a good mood.

But I'm out of breath so easily. I start wheezing as soon as I have to walk up the slightest incline, and when I break into a run the wheezing starts after 10 seconds. My energy is way down from what it used to be. Rich tells me I stop breathing for what seems like long stretches at a time at night (10 seconds was his last count), and I'm extremely restless and noisy while sleeping: I talk and whimper and wheeze and then I stop breathing.

I recorded what my breathing sounds like when I walk up a tiny hill for 30 seconds:
I've had several chest x-rays, a Spirometry test, a CT-scan and a full breathing test done over the last few months. I failed the breathing test "despite maximum effort" because I couldn't reproduce similar results during the test. For an hour I breathed into a tube as hard as I could, pushing the air out with all my might, which is hard work even if you don't have a problem with your breathing and left me lightheaded and exhausted.

After all that, I received some tentative results this morning: either COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or non-reversible asthma, meaning bronchodilators (inhalers) don't work for me.
I grew up in a smoking environment and smoked briefly in my teens, but I haven't touched a cigarette in nearly 20 years. Still, maybe the two decades of second-hand smoke have something to do with it? Who knows. It doesn't matter now.

I'm not sure how I feel about it, which is why I'm writing it all down. I've tried to ignore this problem for over a year and kept hoping that it would simply go away. Since it didn't, the diagnosis isn't that surprising, but still - it's not what I wanted to hear.
I'm going to see my doctor next week to discuss further steps. From what I've read online, I have to avoid triggers (which in my case is strenuous exercise), stay away from air pollutants and live a healthy lifestyle.

I always tell my elderly patients that everybody has something when they get older - I guess this is my something. It could be worse, right?
I'll keep you updated!

xo Miriam


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8 comments

  1. Oh no! So sorry to hear this. Hopefully it will be manageable and not slow you down too much. Wishing you all the best in getting it all figured out.

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    1. Thank you dear Michelle! I've been living with it for over a year, it's very manageable. I guess my running days are over, but since they never happened I can easily live with that haha! I will post occasional updates on the blog if there are any news or changes.

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  2. Oh gosh I'm sorry to hear about this Miriam. Good for you though for not continuing to ignore what is happening. It's really hard to face medical symptoms for sure! I'm going for a breathing test too... went to have an X-ray last fall to check for pneumonia (which I did not have, just a heavy cold) and discovered my lungs are hyperextended. Like you I'm checking my past and all I can come up with is growing up as a child in a household where both parents smoked heavily. A mute point all these years later. Just working at getting through the feelings of "why me when I've never smoked a day in my life", can't blame my parents, they just didn't know back then. Seems to me that asthma and COPD are becoming so common you really have to wonder about air quality on the planet too.

    What does your Dr say about your breathing pattern at night? Stopping breathing sure does not sound like a good thing!
    Sending positive thoughts for your appointment and all that arises from it. XOX

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    1. I'm sorry that you're going though some breathing/lung trouble right now as well! I hope they can find out what's going on with your lungs, and that it isn't anything serious.

      I haven't mentioned the breaks in my breathing at night to the doctor yet, it's something new. I will bring it up next week and see what they say.

      I do wonder about the pollution in our air, and about stuff like asbestos that we were exposed to as kids. Everybody smoked when I was growing up, not only my parents, but every public place, restaurants and pubs reeked of smoke as well! A generation before me, there was smoking in hospitals, airplanes, movie theaters ... it was literally everywhere. I'm not mad at anyone, it is what it is. Out of all the chronic illnesses out there, a mild form of COPD or asthma is not the worst card you can get.
      My dad and a friend of mine both have MS, and seeing what they have to deal with I count myself very lucky!

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  3. Oh gosh, I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. I hope you can figure out how to avoid problems with it as much as possible.

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    1. I'm okay, it's been like this for over a year. What I need to figure out is how to treat it, since inhalers don't work for me, and if I have to avoid strenuous exercise? I'm not overly fond of strenuous exercise, but thinking I may not be able to do it anymore suddenly makes me miss it a little bit already. Weird how that always happens, isn't it?

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  4. Ugh, I'm so sorry! But yes, we do all have something, for me it's my myseterious skeletal issues, and now for you, it's breathing. Still, though, it sucks to have something to deal with like this on a constant basis. I hope you find a relatively easy way to manage it soon!

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    1. I wish you the same Emelie! I hope we both find ways to live with our respective problems.

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