I don’t generally talk much about my own health, but when I think it might help somebody else out, why not? I have been a generally healthy fat woman most of my life, and I hardly ever go to the doctors. I don’t take many medicines and I haven’t had as much as a cold this winter. In my lifetime, I have had a two babies, a few gynecological procedures, got my tonsils out, had a broken ankle, two kidney stones, and that bout with uterine cancer a few years ago….quickly cured with surgery. That’s my history in a nutshell.
But, lately I have suffered with shortness of breath. It’s no fun because small tasks like doing laundry and brushing my teeth brings it on, and it diminishes my stamina and interferes with walking distances. For several years, I have had difficulty breathing after climbing stairs, but it has gotten much worse. After a flight home last November, when I got off my plane, I started feeling a tightness in my chest and then the unrelenting cough that followed. Since then, I have had persistant difficulties. I have blamed it on our pellet stove, my weight, getting old, a dusty house, etc. But, it finally sunk in that this was not going away, and it is not smart to diagnose myself. I am not a doctor, and I don’t pretend to be one.
So, today I had my first doctors appointment for SOB. This is only my 2nd visit ever with this new doctor. I really appreciate his manner, his no nonsense way of speaking, and his intelligence. Mostly I appreciated that he both listens AND speaks. We partnered up! He ordered a 6 minute walk test, a pulmonary function test, an EKG (all done in his office) and a Chest Xray. He considered adding a chemical stress echo cardiogram, but we delayed that because the PFT indicated emphysema!
OH MY GOD!
I smoked in my youth and until I was 35. It’s been 30 years since I lit up. Interestingly one of the reasons I quit is that in two of my nursing jobs, I administered PFTs , and so I did a couple on myself! My pulmonary function was declining back then because of smoking and so I quit. It was one of the hardest but best things I ever did for myself. I had an immediate improvement in my breathing, stamina and capacity for exercise back then.
I’ve always been proud that I quit, and afterward, I could do things without huffing and puffing. My deceased father had emphysema, and my mother has asthma. I have seen them both struggle to breath. I have watched them suck in inhaler mists and take medications for most of my adult life. I never thought I would have emphysema, but could it be the lesser of two evils? The differential diagnosis was Coronary Artery disease/blockage….and guess what they would have recommended for that. No, I don’t want to think about that. We won’t go there unless necessary.
So, my plan is to drop some of this weight, start some kind of walking regimen (spring MUST be almost here isn’t it?), use the steroid inhalers that the doctor gave me, and hope for improvement.
I’ll go back in 2 weeks. I’m hoping to avoid further testing and procedures. We shall see. I’ll share this journey, like I did with the cancer. It just might help someone else. I’m so pleased that I found a doctor that I could ask as many questions as I wanted. He explained ‘our’ plan in detail, and we move on.
Chapter 2 in 2 weeks.