06 December 2007

Between Breaths (A &@!*# Perspective)

Last week I had a consultation with a pulmonologist about my poor breathing skills. General consensus says I have allergy-induced asthma. This makes good sense, considering I've dealt with allergies and sinus issues for the past fifteen years. About two and a half years ago these sinus infections began to always deteriorate into bronchial issues of greater or lesser degree. (Once it turned into all-out bronchitis which lasted three months--my first semester of grad school. Oi!)

Last time I had sinus issues and went to the doctor, Convenient Care actually, the dude slipped a clip on my finger to read my blood oxygen level. It was two points lower than he expected. So he gave me an inhaler and codeine-laced cough syrup and sent me on my confused way. This was in August. The breathing issues I was experiencing then got better and I didn't need the inhaler anymore. Until November. All I did was walk across the street to take the mail to the post office. No real physical exertion involved there. But it was one of the first really cold days of the season and that cold air just punched me in the chest. When I got back inside, I had to sit down for a few moments to get my breath back. This is soooooo not a normal reaction for a 25-year-old who is moderately healthy and not overweight. So we made an appointment with Dr. Greeley.

I explained all this to him in his office last week. How I feel this pressure on my chest and I sometimes find it really difficult to get "enough." Later, I realized I forgot to mention how coughing tends to aggravate my breathing issues, and how taking really deep breaths to deal with that sometimes makes me cough because the air tickles the back of my throat. So it's very reciprocal and not much fun. He asked me about where I work (a library, full of dust and patrons and other contaminants) and about stresses outside of work. I told him that I'm on the verge of graduation and I have some job hunting to do and I still live with the parentals. Based on this, he decided that my breathing issues are anxiety-related. Bullshit. I may not be the happiest girl on the block, but I'm not anxious; I've never had an anxiety attack.

He must have seen the disbelief on my face because he then started rambling on about how asthma sometimes comes and goes with infections, and since I work at a library I'm exposed to pretty much everything out there. (Note: I don't really get sick ever aside from sinus infections, which are my own, not caused by random diseases handed over to me by icky patrons. But I didn't interrupt.) He also said almost as an afterthought that sinus issues and allergies can sometimes cause asthma. (No shit, Sherlock.) He gave me a prescription for a nasal spray and an inhaler, the latter at my request, and set me up for a breathing test.

The exam is today. Here's the deal. He says that if the results come back normal, then he wants me to wait until some of the main stresses in my life are gone and then if I continue to have issues, give him a call. If the results show anything abnormal in my breathing then they'll pursue that path accordingly. The rub is this: my asthma is the lite version, nothing at all as severe as what most asthma sufferers (like a couple of my friends) experience. This means that it's entirely possible that it may slide under the radar, so to speak. Which would confirm Doc's belief that this is anxiety-related.

No. I will not let him treat me like a woman in a Victorian novel who tells everyone she's ill or is being attacked by strange men/ghosts and no one believes her. They just tell her it's nerves and she needs to sit alone in some quiet room with nothing to disturb her or get her upset. Then she'll be okay. But really, she's perfectly sane when she goes into that quiet room with nothing but dull books and boring conversation with occasional visitors, and before you know it, she goes completely mad, believing she's one of the flowers on the wallpaper. I won't be patronized like this.

So I hope to God that something shows on this examination today. This is the only reason I'm glad I now have a cold--it's making things difficult for me in the sleeping/breathing/sinus/sniffly/coughing departments.

Update: Perfect results. Bleh.

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