Tag Archives: health

No Laughing Matter

At the beginning of the summer I wrote an, “Oh, so funny. I have a cold”, blog. Only it turned out to be no laughing matter. It was a bad virus that lasted for weeks. I stopped taking my temperature after nine days. After nine days, you don’t have a temperature anymore with a cold, right?

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(do not ask me why I took this picture–I don’t know. I must have had a reason, but it couldn’t have been a good one.)

 

And I only had a cold…all you had to do was ask me and I’d tell that I had the same virus that knocked out Rachel Madow. I refused to believe it was anything else and put away all my cold paraphernalia.

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I’d been coughing for so long that I stopped hearing myself cough. I was on the verge of total exhaustion by 8:30 in the morning, but I began taking my daily walk again.

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This cough medicine and Vick’s VapoRub stayed on the counter.

I didn’t realize I was spending a lot of time in bed. “Mimi takes rests,” my five-year-old granddaughter said in the middle of the summer and I laughed.

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Here she is entertaining me when I woke up one afternoon.

After the first ten days, I did go to the doctor, but he said it was a virus so no antibiotics were necessary. Three weeks later, I even had a chest X-ray—my husband insisted on it, which should have given me a clue something was up. But when you’re sick and so tired, you have trouble adding up two and two let alone that you’re husband’s mind, which is always on golf, was cognizant I was not doing well. Another clue that I was really sick was that I kept cancelling my manicure appointments. When you don’t have the energy to drive fifteen minutes to sit for a half an hour, you just might have a problem. Oh well, hindsight is 20:20.

The Fourth of July holiday is not a good time to be sick. Everyone in a doctor’s office is on vacation or wants to be on vacation. Chest X-rays don’t get read. Lungs aren’t checked. Temperatures aren’t taken. I was given an Okay when I shouldn’t have been.

By mid-July I had walking pneumonia. I knew it had to be walking pneumonia because I was still out walking the dog, no matter how exhausted I was. I began to sleep more during the day and continued coughing most of the night. This was when I began to feel like a wreck.

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In August, when I went for my annual check up, I insisted on another chest X-ray. That’s when things started hopping. The radiologist was so alarmed by what he saw that he called the doctor immediately. I was scheduled for a CT scan the next day.

This was around the time I asked my Facebook friends whether I could put off my mammogram. How much radiation can a person take in so short a time? I wondered.

In any case, the CT scan showed all kinds of gunk in my lungs and bronchioles. One pulmonary specialist sent me to a special lab to have 14 vials of blood taken. I guess they were looking for what kind of microbe had set off the chain of events.

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I started seeing a UCLA pulmonary specialist in September. He assured me that the nodules were so small they weren’t cancerous. “No problem. We’ll keep track of them with CT scans every six months,” he said. “But you do have a lot of schmutz in your lungs.” Schmutz! Now there was terminology I could understand.

After a gazillion tests, he diagnosed me with bronchiectasis and COPD, and said the virus had set off an exacerbation. All of a sudden, the little cold had turned into a full time job!

I must admit to a bit of panic during the time between the CT scan and the diagnosis. Oh, all right: a lot of panic. And the diagnosis didn’t really ring my bell either. I had never thought of myself as a Spiriva type of person. Shows you what I know.

I am much better than I was. I look back on July and wonder how I dragged myself to the Bruno Mars concert in Vancouver, B.C.

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I think about how gray my face was in September at our anniversary party.

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Even in November, I was in a state of exhaustion that could lead to coughing spells. A low blood sugar attack could hit me unawares, which was not pleasant either. That’s better now.

Still, the slightest thing can set me off. I never wanted to be the Princess and the Pea, but I am more than ever. I’ve become hypersensitive to scents, especially chemicals. I can’t walk down the grocery store aisle stocked with detergents, etc. without going into a coughing spell. And no more perfumes or colognes! I have to dust my bedroom a couple of times a week. All that kind of stuff. And I had to have flu and pneumonia shots because I’ve been cautioned not to get a respiratory illness! I don’t like being difficult. I had a difficult mother and my compass has always pointed directly away from her actions. Still, if I don’t hug you, don’t feel offended.

So what prompted me to write this expose? The smoke filled air. I’ve become one of those people who must check the air before I go outside. We have a lot of smoke from the tragic uncontained fires around here in Southern California, and my lungs can be endangered by poor air quality. I’ve needed to stay inside several days. Yes, me! I can’t believe it either. I was healthy as a horse in May.

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I share my story to encourage everyone to see their doctor if they have symptoms of any kind that persist. I also love this new site someone clued me in on: AirNow.gov. You get up-to-date reports about the air quality in your zip code.

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Also, I share my story because I realize now how depressed I was. And afraid. Even though I had a lot of people around me, I didn’t feel I should bother them. Nor am I good at accepting help. I kept trying to do everything alone and I wasn’t doing a good job of it. God forbid, I should admit to slowing down! How embarrassing!

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Now things are definitely looking up. Seven months into this, I’m taking the medications I’m supposed to (didn’t want to do inhalers) sparingly. I do breathing exercises and Nettypot twice a day! I eat more healthy foods more times during the day.

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I’ve also decided I needed to think more positively. I do NOT want to wear a tag that says I have an elephant sitting on my diaphragm. I’m renaming the diseases I was labeled with. Bronchiectasis is a scary thing so I’ve decided to say I have chronic bronchitis. COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States so I don’t need that hanging around my neck. Instead, I acknowledge I have asthma. But I’m not just going to use prescription meds. I’m going to yoga three times a week and walking every day.

I’ve learned that it’s important to avail ourselves of western medicine. But I don’t want to be trapped in it. One thing I know. I’ll never give up.

 

 

 

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Superwoman Bites the Dust, Part 2

You know how people say, “Listen to your body,”? It occurred to me this morning that I rarely do that. Instead I say, “Listen, body, do what I want.”

Since I had pneumonia, I must have had fifty people say, “Listen to your body.” I jokingly reply that the doctor should never have diagnosed walking pneumonia because I just kept walking around. Instead, she should have said, “Cindy, you have ‘going to bed and resting pneumonia.” I’d end up in bed only because I couldn’t do anything else, and I’d feel guilty about it.

Although I’m much better (I’ve turned the corner!), I’m still a work in progress. I may start off well when I get up, but I can hit the wall at about 11:00 A.M. Then I might be done for the day. So I’ve been trying to short circuit the fatigue by resting before I’m overcome by exhaustion. I make plans for what I can do—things that I never counted before like going to the market or dropping stuff at the cleaners.

When I walked this morning, I got quiet and went inward. I tried to listen? What was my body saying? It was hard to perceive any instructive advice because I’d turned that voice off years ago.

“How the hell should I know?” were the only words that came out—and those were from my mind. Which continued: “You can walk a little farther. You should be able to! You were walking five miles some days before. You need the exercise—you gained weight on your vacation! No pain, no gain! Don’t be a sissy!”

All of a sudden Dr. Phil was there in my head too. “And how’s that been working for ya?” he asked.

When the pulmonary specialist had said, “Don’t push yourself. Don’t walk too far so you’re too tired to walk back,” the words floated to my memory bank but not my conscious decision making center.

But Dr. Phil’s a big guy. His booming voice stood out in the crowd of bullies in my brain who urged me on. So I listened to him and turned towards home.

There’s more to this never-ending story, which I’ll share later. It includes chest X-rays, CAT scans, blood tests, pulmonary tests, inhalers, netty pots and a “No cancer,” diagnosis. It also includes me needing to make an attitude adjustment, which I’m working on. It’s hard to give up the feeling that you’re invincible. I don’t like it.

 

 

 

Miss Smartypants Bites The Dust

So for some reason I’ve been putting off writing this blog. I could plead fatigue. I could plead that my worries are so small in the face of all the disasters around us that I’m embarrassed to focus on me. But I realize most of it is avoidance and denial.

Our mother always said: Pride comes before a fall. This can be a crippling refrain if it plays constantly on your brain’s radio dial. But in the story I’m about to tell, it plays a big part. I let my ego take control and it all got out of hand.

I was so proud of myself at the beginning of May. Here was my mindset: Seventy-one years old and close to being in the best shape of my life!! Walking four to five miles a day, working out, doing yoga, eating well (well, mostly well), and in fantastic health. Working on my memoir, writing short stories, writing my blog! And I only needed 6 hours or less of sleep a night! Others around me might be aging, but not me!! I was like good wine. (Muscato fine vintage.)

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Then on May 25th, I got a sore throat. But because of allergies, I often get a sore throat and then it goes away. Or if I get a cold, I easily get over it. Positive thinking and meditation helped with that. I even wrote a funny blog about how sick I felt. But after a month, it wasn’t so funny. I made it to the important things like my grandson’s high school graduation, but I’d have to rest all day. My brain was a little fuzzy—I’d mean to say kitten but I’d say cotton. Even though I couldn’t manage to go to a manicure appointment (that should have told me how sick I was) I managed to finish a memoir piece about being sexually harassed when I taught school in the Sixties.

And I did start to get better. “I can tell I’m turning the corner,” I’d say to people when they asked if I’d gone to the doctor. “Look at Rachel Maddow. She had this thing too and it knocked her out of work for over a week.”

But then I started to get worse. I began to feel like a vintage wreck.

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“You’re still coughing?” my son said at the beginning of July when they returned from their trip to Thailand. “What did the doctor say?”

Well, unfortunately my doctor was away on a trip also. And it was a holiday weekend. I found out a month later that no one had really read the results of my chest X-ray to see the pneumonia and other issues. So I kept going like the little engine that could barely get up the hill. I thought I should be done with a cold so I started walking three miles. Yeah, not so smart.

After two months I went to Seattle. My daughter took one look at me and called her doctor. We went first thing the next morning: her doctor diagnosed walking pneumonia and I got on an antibiotic. It probably would have been better if she had said I had lying down pneumonia or stop what you’re doing pneumonia because I thought I could still walk around. Me, who thinks I’m so smart, just didn’t hear the message that I needed a lot of rest.

I guess my hearing is non-existent when I’m supposed to be listening to my body. I always push myself beyond my limits so was I going to quit now? No, not me. I went to Canada as planned and to the Bruno Mars concert. IMG_1719

 

I didn’t cancel plans with friends in Seattle though I was having trouble breathing, especially in the smoke filled air. I couldn’t really talk because it made me cough, but I went to a party and tried.

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I could go on and on, and I did. When we got back home, I finally shut down.

 

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So now we’re past the third month. I am better. I am. I’m trying to do less while keeping up with must get done. I prioritize better.

I’m not good at staying in bed. I get antsy. Fortunately, I’ve kept busy at home with little projects. Researching sponges was fun!

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Yes, I did become addicted to Facebook and the news.

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I found Facebook to be similar to leafing through magazines in the old days when you were sick. Oh, and shopping online!

I always try to learn from my experiences. This time I’ve learned that I’m an idiot. My husband is happy with that thought, and the fact that I’m no longer giving him advice on how he should follow doctor’s orders. The blind can’t tell others how to see.

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Okay, there’s more to this story, but I’m tired. I think I might listen to the doctor’s advice and go rest. He did go to medical school, after all.

 

All About Me! or Get Her Well and Shut Her Up!

Since there’s nothing happening much in the news, I thought I’d give you all an update on my health! I mean, let’s keep what’s important in perspective, right?

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I’m well into week 5 of this virus, no pun intended. I do think I turned a corner last week in that I’m not as flat-out sick as I was. But still, once I start feeling tired, I’m done. There’s no cushion to the fatigue. And once it comes, so does the cough, which tires me out more.

I’d like to first say that I have so much more compassion for people who have chronic illnesses. And I’d like to say that I’m sorry for not understanding how debilitated a person can be. I now understand why people become incommunicado—it’s just too much work to get in touch. It takes too much energy to go to lunch or even have a manicure. I don’t mean to say that my virus is on the par of chronic illness—I fully realize it’s just a virus. But it’s given me a taste of what people go through.

I think it also gave me a taste of what I may be like when I’m old, in my late 90’s. Right now my energy bank is not very full. I rest a couple of hours a day, especially if I have to go to an event. Otherwise, I wouldn’t make it. I make tradeoffs, also. If I’m going to go to the grocery store, I can’t take a walk or go to yoga. Not enough energy to cover both.

But I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do the important things this month. I made it to my grandson’s high school graduation and to my granddaughter’s dance recital. I made it to my daughter’s birthday and to our neighbor’s birthday. I made it to the family celebration of birthdays, Fathers Days, graduations and anniversaries. I even finished the chapter I’d been working on.

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I couldn’t eat much with this virus—too tired and slightly nauseous from the fever—so I lost a few pounds. (there has to be a silver lining!). My brother saw one of the family celebration pictures and thought I looked too thin.

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So last Friday, after I had my hair cut, I put on a lot of make up and had my daughter take my picture. That way I could show Steve I felt much better.

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One disturbing thing I realized during this siege is that if you don’t feel well, you make a lot of mistakes. My mind was kinda fuzzy—from the virus or the meds, I don’t know. I tried to keep going and accomplishing, but I’d come back to find out I hadn’t actually finished a task or had not done something correctly. Imagine if I were your pilot! Or your lab technician.

I want to thank everyone for the good advice, encouraging words and help. I did go to the doctor three times and I did get a chest X-ray. I did take more vitamins and kept up my fluids. Part of it was fear engendered by midnight coughing fits. Didn’t Jim Henson die of pneumonia? I’d think as I chugged cough medicine. Oh, and that reminds me. I had a lot of trouble with cough medicine—I tried it with codeine and I had weird dreams and sores in my mouth. And most over-the-counter ones have sucralose in them, of all things.

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A final thought: I realize as I read this over, that I must be very grateful to be such a healthy 71-year-old. If I can complain so much about this virus, I’m mostly in good health! I may be a rust bucket but I have classic lines!

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