Breathe easy, a cautionary tale

About 6 years ago I was in the midst of looking for a house to move back to my home state of North Carolina from New Mexico. It was not going well at all, my realtor either wasn’t listening or I was doing a terrible job of describing what it was I was looking for. She and her husband went skiing over the New Year holiday which gave me several days’ break from confusing house floor plans, and so I caught a virus.

It could have been flu, but it was not a simple cold. This thing had a fever, chills, aches, and generally left me feeling like the proverbial truck had slammed into me. And a persistent cough.

I did finally find a house to buy, with another realtor, but the cough stayed with me. At Thanksgiving my brother invited me to join his family in Texas and went after me the whole weekend to see someone about this  annoying cough. Annoying to him.

So I went to see my gp at home. He took x-rays. Yes, he said, they saw a spot. More x-rays. Still inconclusive. C-T scan. My brother (a lung oncologist) asked for a copy of the scan which I sent to him. About the same time the tech at home gave me the diagnosis my brother gave the same one: adult-onset asthma.

Now this made no sense at all to me. I’d never had problems breathing. I ran 3-5 miles every morning (still do) with my husky-mix rescue dog Lily. I had never had pulmonary problems of any kind.

Not until this little cough which by now was gone. Too late. I was on the middle of this roller coaster ride.

My gp scheduled an appointment with a pulmonologist who ordered a pft (pulmonary function test) which turned up my breathing capacity at 90-95%. What’s wrong with that? I asked. Well, since we see scarring we want to prescribe something to help keep the lungs open. They can collapse otherwise.

Collapse? A whole lung??

This went on for 5 years. In that time I experienced shortness of breath only once, alone in a movie theater watching a political thriller that was not very good anyway. No sooner had I left than I caught my breath again. Three successful pfts and a new pulmonologist later and I am still running with Lily. Still having no problems breathing. The little persistent cough is so historic as to not even register in my long-term memory.

And I have moved again. So I schedule one last appointment. Another pft. Still breathing 100%. The doctor says yes, I can stop with the appointments but to cover himself or maybe just to appease the pharmaceutical company he prescribes one last emergency inhaler which I do not have filled.

Still running with Lily every day. Still able to catch my breath. And a commercial comes on the television showing a wonderful new asthma drug with the caution: “using this can cause death”.

So glad I am better now.

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