sarasvati: Greyscale image of Sae, from Hidamari Sketch (happy)
[personal profile] sarasvati
I walked 2 miles today to get groceries. There's something to be said for not having a bus pass when the weather's still decent. Thing got kind of tricky to carry back, though, as I overestimated my strength and ending up buying a little too much (I'd forgotten, until I was there, that I need more dish soap and eggs), but I still made it back before my lungs burned and my muscles ached.

I love getting stronger! I'll be doing the same walk tomorrow, too, even if I don't end up carrying back as much.

Sometimes it's scary to think that even a year ago, that walk, even in very mild weather, would have left me wheezing and tight-chested, and I'd need a while to recover before I could go out again. Four or five years ago... I'd probably need to bring my inhaler with me and take it at least once before the walk was finished. My lungs have really gotten better in the last few years, and I'm loving every second of sweet delicious oxygen!

Before I was diagnosed with asthma, life was really freaking hard for me. It didn't really hit until I was a teenager, and just got worse as each year passed. I'd be diagnosed with frequent lung infections and given antibiotics and a Ventolin inhaler to make breathing easier, and I'd end up using the inhaler long past the time the infections cleared up. I know I had pneumonia twice, possibly more, and my lungs are scarred from it. But even though this happened like clockwork, lots of infections and always the worst ones in the winter, my doctor wouldn't do anything but give me antibiotics and maybe an inhaler and send me on my way. No investigation into why I always got so sick. No advice on how to stop getting so sick, even.

Since I never got a diagnosis of it, even though I suspected it, I wouldn't treat it properly. I didn't have regular access to the meds that would keep it at bay, for one thing. My lungs would constrict over time, and I'd wheeze for days, often losing sleep because I couldn't lie down without feeling like I was suffocating. My lips would gradually acquire a nice blue tinge to them, and that was pretty much my breaking point, the moment I'd decide that it wouldn't pass and I'd go to the hospital. Keep in mind that this sort of thing would normally take about 5 days of nearly constant wheezing because my airways were so tight and clogged with mucus. It wasn't just an asthma attack building up over the course of an hour. I'd be in agony for a week, sometimes more.

One time, when I was preparing to visit the emergency room, I bent over to tie my sneakers and my vision went black. I believe that was the visit where a smart doctor took a look at my history and told me that I had asthma. I told him that my family doctor said that I didn't, that I just had weak lungs and recurring infections. He looked incredulous and shot back, "What does she think asthma is?!"

That was when I got my diagnosis, and my prescription for meds that would keep it at bay. Not just a once-off thing, either, but with actual refills on it! I'd be able to keep breathing for months without needing to go through that again, have what seemed like unprecendented freedom before my lungs decided to crap out again.

My family doctor, of course, kept denying the asthma diagnosis and wouldn't give me refills on my meds. She then had the gall to ask me why I kept taking so many trip to the emergency room. When I angrily told her that it was because she wouldn't prescribe the medication I needed to keep breathing but that the ER doctors would, she looked grumpy and gave me a prescription with refills on it. What choice did she have, really? The hospital had actively contacted her and alerted her to the fact that I kept visiting them for the same problem over and over, and it was because she was a dumbass and didn't pay any attention to what I actually needed.

If you think I'm being unnecessarily harsh on her for making one mistake, think again. This doctor was the one who prescribed me three years of antidepressants in one go, after a 2-minute consultation where the conversation went as follows:

Me - I think I'm suffering from depression.
Her - Oh... But you're not suicidal, are you?
Me - Well, actually, I am...
Her - *hands me a slip of paper* Take these for three years.

She also walked out of the room in the middle of me telling her what was wrong once, berated me for not knowing if my grandparents in another country had any health problems, had been reported to have uttered threats to her patients in the past, and eventually got charged with arson and drug trafficking. What scares me the most is that she's still running a practice in another city.

So yeah, she was a douche. I'm glad to not have her as a doctor anymore.

But all those years of repeated infections and lousy lung function really took their toll on me. It used to be that even stepping outside in cold air would make my lung seize up so badly that I'd start to wheeze withing 30 seconds, or even walking for half an hour on a nice summer day would make me have to sit down to catch my breath again. Now I can walk steadily for well over an hour in air that's a little chilly and the first part of me to start objecting is my feet!

I wonder sometimes at the people who think that asthma is no big deal, something that fat kids get and grow out of later. Yes, I'm overweight and that isn't helping matters, I'm sure, but regardless, the fact that a person's airways narrow and sometimes completely close off in response to anything from someone wearing too much perfume to cold air... Well, it's nothing to sneeze at. It's not just a little wheezing that goes away in half an hour. It can and does kill. I wanted to punch something when I saw that episode of House where there's a guy dying of a nasty lung infection and one of the doctors thinks they saw signs of it earlier but thought it was "just asthma." Yeah, just a person's airways tightening and clogging and preventing them from breathing properly. Nothing to worry about. Nothing that needs any concern.

Especially when said guy was trying to beg off work that day because he was having trouble breathing, and the doctor in question lied to him to convince him to stay and finish fixing her roof... I'm sorry, but even though most cases of asthma turn out to be fairly mild, that doesn't mean that a person having difficulty breathing should be dismissed so lightly. Regardless of the cause, they're still having trouble getting air into themselves!

Maybe I hate that attitude because I too had it for years, in regard to myself. I shrugged off everything, insisting it was nothing, it would get better, until it was too bad for me to keep ignoring it, bad enough that my lips changed colour. That attitude was slowly killing me, restricted just about everything I could do for over a decade, and only now am I approaching the physical abilities of an average person, because my lungs were so shot. It hasn't been a matter of just sitting back and recovering like one does with a cold. It's taken work, pushing my boundaries and learning a lot about my body and where my limits are and what I can and can't do. If my idiot doctor had paid attention, maybe I wouldn't have been so bad for so long. If another ER doctor had suggested asthma earlier...

Maybe they didn't because I came in looking too crappy for the cause to be "just asthma" all those times. I don't know. But recovery is a bitch, my lungs will be scarred for the rest of my life thanks to all those infections, and I wasted years deluding myself and downplaying everything that went wrong.

But enough griping about the past. Let it just be said that I really treat each breath I take as a gift, because I know all too well what it's like when breath is taken from me. I love that I can go for a walk to the corner store without needing to rest for most of a day to recover. I love breathing, and I love being able to celebrate it and live my life a bit more closely to how I really want to live it.

There's a turkey roasting in the over now, stuffed with homemade stuffing (leftover bread that's going a little stale, sausage, and onion), and it should be ready for Rei coming home from work. We bought it last night, taking an impromptu trip to the grocery store to grab a few things, and they had whole turkeys marked down to an incredibly low price. The one we bought was originally $37 and was reduced to $11, since their sell-by date was today, and they wanted to get them out of the store. No problem for us, since a 5.5 kilogram turkey will make an excellent couple of meals, and the price was too good to pass up! what we don't eat for supper tonight or turk into sandwiches tomorrow will be made into turkey sausage balls for later consumption, and since it also came with the neck (stuffed into the body cavity, which I always find weird), I suspect there'll be a nice turkey broth in the making, too.

Carrots, potatoes, and probably peas will be done up closer to the time the turkey's done cooking.

And we have delicious ice cream for dessert!
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August 2011

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