Catching My Breath

Ann Litts
Ann Litts
Feb 27 · 3 min read

July 2017:

It’s been three months since I sat in her office. Today I went back for a check-up and to formulate a plan to keep me from becoming so desperately ill in the future.

I’m doing pretty good, back to baseline as they say. I got a peak flow meter today as a better guide to my lung function than the previous meter I was using (if I got short of breathing going DOWN a set of stairs — I knew I was in trouble).

But it all reminds you of The Thing.

The Thing you have that your friends and co-workers don’t have.

I have an invisible chronic disease.

Ironically, I am otherwise healthy. I have a good BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol level, all other organs are cruising along just fine. Even the female parts settled down after menopause without too much ado. But the lungs, well, they’ve been annoyed since I was a teenager.

Luckily over the years, I’ve been good at managing my condition. Very, very good. I didn’t even go to a pulmonologist until I was over fifty. Around two years into our relationship, said pulmonologist was completely caught off guard when I went from baseline-healthy to severely-ill as quickly and easily as jumping off a cliff. She said to me, “You really are asthmatic!”. Yep. I am. And I only ever occupy one of two positions on the asthmatic continuum. I am either perfectly healthy or on the verge of needing an ICU bed.

I used to wander around in a tad of denial. I think most Humans who have a chronic disease live there for as long as they can — The River Denial. However, seeing my pulmonologist regularly helps me cope with this. I realized I had to stop doing dumb stuff that makes my lungs revolt, like keeping pets and dating men who smoke. DUH.

Moving out of denial is about accepting myself for who I am. It’s about learning to love My Body for all her parts — every single part. The parts of myself that can hold a shoulder stand and move into a plow smoothly as much as the parts that wheeze and cough and make me miss work, often stopping me dead in my tracks.

On days like today when I sit in her office, remembering I have asthma — I don’t do so with self-pity. Far from it. Because in her waiting room I am surrounded by my fellow pulmonary patients — many in wheelchairs with oxygen tanks in tow.

I gratefully take my new flow meter and follow our ‘plan’. Because I am asthmatic. This is My Reality.

Perspective. Life is always, always, always about perspective.

Namaste.

Addendum: I still have asthma. In fact, this time of year when the trees bloom all around me is when I am most vulnerable to an exacerbation. I’m happy to report that under the care of my pulmonologist, I am doing much better than ever before. Even sitting in February is not so awful — knowing the trees are doing their best to kill me with their mating dance. My last severe attack — prior to some medication tweaking — was over a year ago. I am thankful beyond words for the resources I have — the ability to be cared for by a superb pulmonary team as well as the financial security and health insurance to afford this care and the medications prescribed. Many Humans are not so fortunate.

Ironically, in North Carolina, asthma is not listed as a medical condition that will get me into a COVID vaccination center any sooner than perfectly healthy college-aged students. So we wait. Me. My pulmonologist. My family. My friends. Because there is no way in hell I’m throwing away #myshot.

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