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1 0 Posts in Asthma
April 8, 2012

Gone, Gone, Gone

Gone, Gone, Gone

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.

~Douglas Adams

I have not written in nearly a week which seems terrible. It also seems  – well – like a real demonstration of my life.

Last week at this time I was returning from a conference in Lake Louise, Canada. Right now I am sitting in the United Lounge at LAX with my 2 boys – ages 10 and 12 – while we wait for a flight to Australia. We are on our way to the OSSANZ meeting in Darwin.

Sometimes, I feel like all my running is training for weeks like this.

I used to make excuses for the insane pace of my life. I also used to try to control it a lot more. but at some point I realized that it did more harm than good – I was living in a sort of constant state of struggle against what was. I spent a lot of energy trying to change thing and hoping that they would be different, and it often kept me from enjoying what was right in front of, me.

Who would have ever thought that letting go and succumbing to chaos would not only make it more tolerable, but might even make it fun? Continue reading…

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February 19, 2012

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You – a Tribute

What You Don’t Know Can Kill You – a Tribute

Now the fire rises
and offers a dozen, singing, deep-red
roses of flame. Then it settles
to quietude, or maybe gratitude, as it feeds
as we all do, as we must, upon the invisible gift:
our purest, sweet necessity: the air.
~ Mary Oliver

I have been trying to figure out this week how I might comment even briefly on the death of New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid. Shadid, on assignment in Syria, did not die at the hands of terrorists or caught in hostile crossfire – he died from an asthma attack. He was 43 years old.

I suppose it’s worth noting that I am 42. And, for those of you who have not read the blog, I have asthma.

There are times when we all have to think about our own mortality more than we want to. I was diagnosed with asthma in my 20s, but I have likely had it since childhood.  Asthma is scary. When you have an attack you lungs swell on the inside and it becomes hard to breathe  – a bit like drowning but not under the water. You often really do feel like you could die.

Here’s the thing. I have had plenty of brushes with death (I know that sounds melodramatic…). I was abandoned by guides in a remote area of northern Thailand, I’ve had one rather bad car accident, and I was held up at gunpoint. I have twice had anaphylaxis – a potentially deadly allergic reaction. And I have not died, not even once, even when I thought I might. Continue reading…

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February 17, 2012

Listening to Solitude

Listening to Solitude

Solitude stands by the window
She turns her head as I walk in the room
I can see by her eyes she’s been waiting
Standing in the slant of the late afternoon
– Suzanne Vega

Do you every have a day – or maybe even a week in your life where the universe keeps trying to tell you something over and over and over again? I have been very busy lately, and very stressed, and struggling with my asthma – so maybe by today the universe just needed to shout at me a little…

It started early this morning. Thanks to the hefty dose of drugs I am taking for my lungs I was wide awake at some hour of the morning that barely qualifies as morning. I read this great blog post titled What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space by Scott Belsky. It’s a short piece, I hope you read it. In it he talks about the increasing pressure to be be constantly plugged in and with this the loss of disconnected down time. He reflects on this loss of time alone and relates it to the loss of the “creative pause”- the moments, where the mind, no longer listening to the outside world, can turn in and listen to itself. He writes:

In these moments, you are completely isolated, and your mind is able to wander and churn big questions without interruption.

I saved the article. Tried to quiet my mind. Tried to sleep. No such luck. Continue reading…

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February 15, 2012

Remembering to Smile

Remembering to Smile

Smile, breathe and go slowly.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

There are days when I feel like I simply forget what really matters.

For several days now I have been really struggling with my breathing. I have asthma, so this happens sometimes, but when it get protracted and out of control, it can take over my whole world.  Mostly, we get to get to go through life and things like breathing just happen. But when they don’t, trust me, it can through things off in the rest of your life.

I am not – of course – actually going to blame my asthma for the horrible leak under my kitchen sink, but it didn’t entirely feel like a coincidence last night. Continue reading…

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February 14, 2012

Seeking Patience

Seeking Patience

It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.
~ Elizabeth Taylor

I have been really struggling with asthma this week.

Despite all the regular prevention I do, there are times like this – when for some reason like stress or a virus or something in the wind – when nothing really seems to help. Right now, I have no idea what is causing the problem – I can just tell you that something is not working right.

So today, no running for me.

At the suggestion of a friend (another doctor) I took a great big dose of a steroid and I am waiting. I am taking extra regular doses of my bronchodilator and I am waiting. And since both of these drugs amp me up like I have several pots of coffee I am not waiting patiently.  I am jittery and rather restless and almost for the first time ever, I feel like running might feel great as an outlet for all this extra energy.

Oh, the tragedy of it all. 

But the truth is that since January first I have basically run every day but one (when I was on a plane) until today. So suddenly not being able to run for a reason that doesn’t involve being at a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet seems not quite right.

I am not a patient person naturally.  It’s a thing I have to work at and cultivate constantly.  In my moments when I am tired or stressed or feeling low, it it the first thing to go. Continue reading…

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February 12, 2012

Trying to Breathe

Trying to Breathe

I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke-

– Shel Silverstein, Sick

I started a great post today about runner’s high (a thing I find both fascinating and elusive), but then I woke up wheezing.

I have asthma. I was officially diagnosed with this condition in my early 20s, but in hindsight that is only because it was not severe enough when I was a kid and it just got missed.

Yesterday it was not to be missed. I went out for what I thought would be a modest 2.8 mile run at sunset (and it was a beautiful night) only to find that by 3/4 of a mile my lungs were struggling to get enough air to keep my body going. I started to wheeze and cough, the muscles around my ribs started to contract and cramp, and pretty quickly I was barely walking.

When I stopped moving, I stood still and tried to recapture some semblance of normal breathing. I can sometimes do this by consciously slowing and deepening my breath. I was already feeling light headed and so I sat for a minute.

When I regained a bit of composure, I looked up and this is what I saw:

So even though part of me was pretty disappointed in my body at that moment, I could at least appreciate that the world is still a beautiful place and I can walk home looking at this and run later.

In this case, since I don’t run at night, my compromise for later was going to be a nice long run when I woke up this morning.

Then I woke up wheezing. Continue reading…

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January 18, 2012

On Breathing

On Breathing

Breathing is the essence of life.
Breathe deeply, live fully.
~ Gabriella Goddard

In my recent re-reading of Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run I focused in a bit more on some of his journalistic representation of the science supporting human beings as having, in essence, evolved to be efficient running machines. Part of this theory rests on some thinking around developmental anatomy and kinesiology (the science of movement), supporting the idea that the natural running posture of humans allows for much more efficient breathing – more efficient than super-fast animals like gazelles and cheetahs.

Asthmatics like me – we would have died an early and brutal death on the savannah.

I have probably had asthma all my life, though I was not diagnosed officially until I was in my early 20s (an amusing story that I am sure I’ll tell one day on this blog). Asthma, for those of you who don’t have it, causes the air-filled spaces of the lungs to narrow and swell, leaving you wheezing, coughing and more or less anxiously gasping for air. All sorts of things can set it off from pollen to animals to infection to stress. I fall into the “most of the above” category, and I also have true exercise induced asthma (EIA) – meaning (you guessed it) activities like running can cause me to have an asthma attack.

Those of us with EIA, we are definitely not born athletes. We are more programmed to die from athletic endeavors. Continue reading…

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