That’s my chant for this week and so far, it’s working. (I’m tempted to be droll and say “But I’m not holding my breath” because of course if I could breathe and hold my breath at will, I wouldn’t need this chant, would I?)
Things are amiss in lung land. The evidence is all over our house: the nebulizer is in the living room instead of its discreet home in our bedroom and little empty plastic vials of Xopenex line the end table next to the tubing; various containers and “spit cups” are stationed in every room (don’t worry, the used ones are whisked away); my living room couch has become my office, a migration that only occurs when I am really feeling badly; tissues, a thermometer, inhalers and my peak flow meter are cluttering the coffee table; and by the end of the day, I am hoping that my new meds in their crinkly Walgreens pharmacy bags will add to the general disarray.
I haven’t been this excited to see the guy who does my chest PT in months. I also haven’t been this appreciative of my schedule, which allows me to work from home on Tuesdays, in a long time.
I joke that I get the plague each winter, but considering Easter was colder than Christmas this year, my lungs seem to be following suit. The low-grade plague I’ve battled since November has resisted several rounds of antibiotics and everything else I’ve thrown at it, but things reached a crescendo this Sunday, when I spent eight hours coughing and couldn’t walk from bed to bath without tightening up and getting really winded. Now, I don’t mind coughing any more than the average respiratory patient does—after all, it’s an occupational hazard, no?—but when it’s more spastic than productive and when little flecks of blood appear in whatever does manage to come up, I’m not pleased.
It’s not so much the hospital I dread as the requisite steroids that accompany a trip. It has taken me so many painstaking months to even begin to normalize after the two-year adrenal failure caused by the twenty-year pounding of toxic doses of steroids, and I will do just about anything to avoid them.
“Clearly if my choices came down to needing steroids in a life-threatening situation and dealing with all the effects of them or not surviving, I’d take steroids,” I said by way of reassuring my husband that even my zealot tendencies have a limit, but he looked less than thrilled with the bluntness of my statement.
So let’s hope the nebs, the inhalers, the chest PT, the new meds and everything else get me through the next few days. I’m in this precarious place where things could easily go either way, and it’s really an annoying feeling.
Coincidentally, I was re-reading the thoroughly engrossing and moving Breathing for a Living recently, CF patient Laura Rothenberg’s memoir (more on this at some point), and I realized I don’t write directly about my lungs all that much. Reading this book made me think long and hard about my lungs, and I felt alternately grateful for them and protective of them. Sure, I mention peak flows, or casually refer to not being able to breathe easily, but they are rarely the star in my posts….which is weird, since many of my other medical problems begin and end with PCD, bronciectasis, or some combination of treatments for them, and which is also weird because while a lot of my other conditions are annoyingly chronic, they aren’t the ones that have landed me in the ICU, they aren’t the ones that sometimes, when I think long-term, make me nervous.
Maybe it’s because they are always there, because even on my “good” days I still wheeze and cough and feel them, there isn’t too much to report. They’re a constant, and constantly talking about what is constant would be…well, boring. What makes Breathing for a Living so powerful and engaging is that it isn't a book of symptoms and reports...it uses those medical changes and fluctuations (especially pronounced in a double lung transplant patient) to propel a larger story, a larger, more compelling struggle than the symptoms alone could ever be.
Either way, my own lungs won’t let me ignore them today. Let’s just hope I win this week’s battle of wills.