Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Running With Asthma

I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 12. I've had some very scary episodes and some periods where it wasn't much of a bother.

Last year, the over the counter rescue inhaler I had been using went off the market, so I had to switch to a prescription.

Oh, albuterol. You taste disgusting, you might give me thrush if I'm not careful, and occasionally you speed my heart up for a few minutes, but you do the job. Sure, I need you more often than the other stuff, but hey, at least I can keep breathing. Common side effects aside, you're gentler than some of the other options.

From today's run. Those clouds are all gone, now.
Over the past couple of years, I've been trying to strengthen my body with running. The year before last, I was able to keep it up for a reasonably long time, but last year, I ended up quitting for a while because of my lungs.

This past winter had been one of the coldest on record. One of my triggers happens to be cold air. We also started renovating our house, which put who knows what into the air, so I was in a pretty constant state of illness. Add to that getting used to a new medication, and...well.

C'mon, immune system chill out, would ya? Not everything is out to infect me.

It's only been this past month that I've finally started running again. I've noticed a strange disconnect between my legs, mind and lungs. My mind and legs know they can go so much further, but when my chest starts tightening, I have to slow to a walk to avoid an attack.

Once I feel loose again, I run until I either hit the next landmark, or my lungs start feeling twitchy. At that point, I slow to a walk, wait for my lungs to relax again, and run again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Right now, I don't bother measuring distances or times. I'm just re-building my endurance. This is step one. Step two will be aiming for set times or distances.

It's an odd experience. I take the inhaler 15 minutes before I start my warm up, which keeps my lungs looser than they would otherwise be, and I feel like I could run the entire route. When I get out there, though, it's another story.

I need to be very careful about pacing myself. The whole "Run through the pain" idea only applies to the burning muscle in your legs, not the pain of a particularly bad asthma attack. At this point in my health journey, the most important advice is "listen to your body".

If I had to say one positive thing about living with asthma, it's that it forces me to discover my limits and be careful about pushing them too hard. Regular exercise will help reduce the problems I've been having this year, but if I end up making myself too sick or hurting myself, that'll be off the table until I recover.

I do not want to be stuck in a hospital. I do not want to damage my lungs (again). I'm not quite ready to die just yet.

I already know what lung damage feels like.

Back when my husband and I lived in our first apartment, I got sick. The respiratory therapist I visited put me through a bunch of tests, and we discovered some minor lung damage. She refused to believe me when I said I didn't smoke, because that was the most common reason for lung damage in asthmatics.

I went through the med merry go round, and eventually went the alternative medicine route, save for a rescue inhaler. I couldn't find a medical team willing to believe me when I talked about the side effects I kept suffering. It was terrible.

In the end, we discovered the apartment was full of mold. We brought it up to the management company, and were told to leave shortly thereafter for "unrelated problems".

Hmm. If we had money, we probably had grounds for a lawsuit. Either way, that was a decade ago, and the apartment complex is now run by someone else.

Anyway, my lungs improved when we got into our first house. A year later, they were back to what goes for normal.

Of course, trigger management is important, too. That means regular cleaning to keep dust down, which I'm terrible at, running an air purifier, watching what I eat and assorted other things. Fortunately, the smokers in my life are all great about not lighting up around me.

Then again, people who refuse to respect my health aren't really friends, are they?

So, I'll keep building my endurance, but I'll be doing it at a pace my body agrees with. I'm not aiming for a marathon, either. I just want to be as healthy as possible.

Nothing wrong with that, is there?

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