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Huffing and puffing

February 26th, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

can't breaathI 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!


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.

  1. February 26th, 2015 at 09:13 | #1

    Thanks for sharing this journey. As you say, spring is almost here and so much starts anew. With a warm e-hug, Randi

  2. February 26th, 2015 at 09:18 | #2

    I am so glad that you are able to partner with your doctor to prevent/treat these troublesome symptoms. Thank you for generously sharing your journey so that we can all benefit from your experience. Kathy Day, RN: you are a patient safety advocate who speaks with clarity and compassion. We need you to maintain your stamina and positive attitude. The brutal and beautiful Maine winter forges hearty stock!

  3. February 26th, 2015 at 10:34 | #3

    Thanks Kathy for sharing your story. I think stories are so helpful to others. It sounds like you have the same positive attitude you take on everything else in your life. Now you get to be your partner and advocate with the healthcare journey. Spring, I think, is around the corner;-)!!

  4. Deborah Roseman
    February 26th, 2015 at 10:39 | #4

    This was clearly an understandably jarring diagnosis, Kathy, and you are unsurprisingly moving forward with grace, candor, and generosity. Thank you for sharing, and I send you lots of good wishes and encouragement for making the changes you outlined! As ever, I’ll be cheering for you, like you cheer for everyone!

  5. February 26th, 2015 at 11:43 | #5

    Kathy, you are a courageous woman. And you have taught so many about infections, how to prevent them, and so much else. Now you are teaching us what good health and health care is all about. As a message of hope, the body has tremendous capacity to heal and reverse some of the impact of time. We have to partner with our bodies, listen to them…. you are doing all of that. You have friends along with you on the journey!

  6. February 26th, 2015 at 12:02 | #6

    Thank you for sharing your story about this new health care journey. Your positive attitude is inspiring and I’m sure it will help you accomplish your goals. Your doctor is lucky to be working with you; I’m sure you make his job more delightful with your patient safety expertise and kind heart. Be well and you are in my thoughts! So glad that spring is coming.

  7. Jane
    March 1st, 2015 at 11:41 | #7

    Hi Kathy,

    Sorry to hear about your COPD. My Dad had it. I have been having shortness of breath and blaming it on having pneumonia last year and the year before, but the COPD has entered my mind. When I went to the doctor(urgent care) for coughing, he asked if I had asthma because he could hear me breathing when he entered the room. Maybe I’ll be a little more in tune with my symptoms. Get better Kathy.

  8. Linda Black
    March 1st, 2015 at 14:58 | #8

    Try a fitbit, kids gave me one for Christmas, a daily tracker. Saved me! Thanks for sharing and your knowledge!

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