Monday, July 1, 2013

I have a theory

I don't think I have asthma. There, I said it.

I think my lung issues over the last couple of years are a result of previous lung—well, let's say damage for lack of a better word. You see, I was exposed to second hand smoke as a small child (thankfully all parents quit by the time I was eight or so) and then again as a young adult while serving in the Army. That Army exposure was particularly pervasive and extreme. Plus I also had a lot of childhood illnesses like bronchitis.

I think that I inadvertently kept my lungs strong by playing wind instruments, especially the oboe, being a vocalist and running for so many years. I think that conditioning continued even after my music career was over because I kept running.That lung strength is why I never had any problems until the last three years.

After the first flood, almost four years ago, I was still running but I was also getting exposed to a whole lot of construction debris. Drywall dust was everywhere and that stuff will clog even the best lungs. Then just a couple of months after the flood but before all the reconstruction was done, I got a job in New Hampshire which meant I no longer had the time to run because of my incredibly long commute. Coincidentally, I had my first round of compromised breathing that year.

When we had more water damage from the frozen pipe that burst, the second round of reconstruction was not as extreme as the first but still all our floors had to be replaced, along with some drywall in our bedroom. That's when I had my second round of compromised breathing.

And finally after the third pipe leak and reconstruction, I left the state and visited my sister during reconstruction. I dodged that bullet only to move to Kansas City for my current job . . . in a building undergoing renovations while we work in the building. Last summer was particularly bad as my work environment was filled with new carpet fibers, drywall dust and concrete dust. Things got pretty bad with my breathing that third time.

The particulate matter in the building mostly settled down by around November/December and I've had a chance to reflect on my symptoms and experiences. See, I didn't ever wheeze. I only coughed (unproductively I might add) and felt like I couldn't get enough air.

So I made a couple of changes – I haven't used a maintenance inhaler or a fast acting inhaler since the end of March. And I'm running regularly again, three times a week for about a mile and a half. My ultimate goal is a two and a half mile route, mostly because I get really bored if I run more than that, and also I don't have enough time to run further in the mornings.

I've seen progress already. At first, I was horribly winded and it would be more accurate to call what I was doing a walk with some trotting in it. Now I'm reliably running the whole thing, including the long hill in the second half (70 foot elevation gain in less than half a mile). Best of all, I recover quickly and I'm not coughing at the end.

Next step for me is to talk with my PCP about getting that diagnosis removed from my records. I think I have a good case for it -- even at my worst just over a year ago, the lung function tests at a Boston hospital showed just in the normal range. Low, yes, but still normal. If I need to go through another round of those tests again, I will. In fact, I'd almost welcome it just to be able to say (truthfully) that I don't have asthma.

Happy trails!

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