Category Archives: Asthma

What My Lungs Have Been Up To (Etc.)

They told me I would probably grow out of my asthma.

They were wrong.

It’s true that my asthma is much better now than it was when I was an adolescent. Far gone are the days when I was swinging by the emergency room once or twice or three times a year to get a shot of epinephrine or a nebulizer treatment, but I’m still under the care of a pulmonologist, and my asthma is still a thing.

Almost a year ago, my asthma was acting up so severely and frequently that my pulmonologist and I decided to try a treatment called “bronchial thermoplasty“. I’ll go into the details of bronchial thermoplasty (BT) in another post; suffice to say, heat is applied directly to the lung tissues in order to reduce the bronchial inflammation that causes asthma.

I count the BT as a success. Although my peak flow rate hasn’t really changed that much, nor have my spirometry results, I’ve had a lot fewer flare-ups, and I haven’t had to go on Prednisone since the treatment concluded back in November.

Recently, though, I have been experiencing a flare-up. I’m chalking it up to the heat and the air quality (the air in Sacramento has been pretty chunky of late). I’ve increased the dosage of my Advair, and that has helped. But if this doesn’t clear up significantly by next week, I’ll start taking the Prednisone.

To be clear, the BT is not a “cure” for asthma, and was never advertised as such. In cases like mine, the asthma is basically a permanent state of affairs, although it can be well-managed. And what with improvements in drugs and so on (including the advent of treatments like BT), that management is getting much better. All that’s left to do are to make the lifestyle changes that my pulmonologist has been pushing on me for years now. Turns out I’m lousy at that.


In other news…

I’m still on my social media hiatus. I poked into Twitter today just to see what was going on, and I couldn’t make it past a few posts without getting anxious. Turns out Trump is still awful, and Twitter is still a tool for amplifying and echoing his awfulness, even among his opponents. Trump Tweets something foul, and gets retweeted, with pugnacious commentary, by everyone. Trump makes me anxious, and Twitter, therefore, makes me anxious as well. So I think I’m going to stay off Twitter for awhile longer.

Facebook is less problematic. I have logged in there a couple of times to check out what’s happening with my family and a few close friends, all while avoiding the politics. I don’t mind pictures of food or baby stories; on the contrary, I like those posts. Life is full of mundanities. Shouldn’t they be acknowledged, if not celebrated? Still, Facebook can be a time sink, and right now I need that time to work on my writing.

I did start up an Instagram account, but that is almost exclusively to keep up with my wife’s cat pictures. So far I haven’t posted anything myself.

Also, I’ve switched my blog back to its former theme. At some point I will sit down and customize my site and WordPress installation entirely. But, again, that will take time. So for now, enjoy the default theme from 2014.

 

I Suppose I Ought to Blog

I have a blog, theoretically, and once in awhile I post to it. I’m going to make a goal of posting at least once a week, but who knows how long that will last. Who knows indeed. I have Thoughts and Things to share, some of which might be of interest to both of my regular readers.

So here we go.

Politics.

  1. The election of Donald Trump as President was unfortunate at best. I don’t think it will end up being apocalyptic for the world at large, by which I mean I doubt we’ll see nuclear war. But for many marginalized groups, things are already getting bad. As as middle-aged, middle class, white, Christian, cis-hetero male, I probably have the least to lose, but I firmly believe that what harms one population in the US harms us all.

Writing.

  1. For NaNoWriMo, I wrote Padma, which I’d had in the planning stages for several years, ever since I wrote a strange little story called “The Flower” back in 2005. This story was called “very sexist” by one editor, but “charmingly engaging” by another. I hope that the novel works out well. We’ll see what happens to the novel version.
  2. My novella The Winds of Patwin County is still for sale, in both Kindle and paperback editions. See the link to the left.
  3. I have a silly little short story called “Tumbleweeds”, which has been called the definitive entry in the carnivorous plant genre by at least one friend of mine, and which at least one professional writer suggested ought to be submitted to the Writers of the Future contest. I’m not thoroughly satisfied with this story. It needs a new ending. But once I have that ending written, I have some markets in mind that I want to send it to.
  4. My next novel-length project will be something called And the Devil will Drag You Under, which I’ve mentioned before. The outline requires a good rewrite, since I’ve decided to switch the point of view character and make some other serious changes to it.

Health.

  1. Asthma. I underwent all three Bronchial Thermoplasty treatments, and my breathing has significantly improved. Now if only the insurance people would get their act together and decide how much I owe for that.
  2. Weight Loss. I went back up over 300 pounds at one point, but then I joined Weight Watchers (since the weight loss plan I tried to make up for myself wasn’t working), so I’ve lost about ten of those pounds. You want them? I’m not taking them back.

Kobolds.

  1. My mental state has been good of late. The Kobolds of Depression haven’t been bothering me much, though every now and then they send out a scout party.

And that’s all I got for now. Enjoy your day. And if you get a chance, listen to some Tom Waits.

A Wee Update, and A Question For You

Since I posted on the 29th, where I weighed in at over 300 pounds, I’ve lost six. I’ve also undergone the first of three Bronchial Thermoplasty procedures. Five days on, I’m still wheezing and short of breath, although the physician who performed the procedure tells me I’m actually doing quite well. It’s still a chore to walk around the block, but each day I’m getting better at it. Saturday, I was wheezing and gasping for breath and desperately reaching for my nebulizer after my walk; today I was pretty good afterwards, and while I still used my nebulizer, I was not gasping. Keep this up, I tell myself.

I’ll talk more about the procedure in my next blog post. It was pretty interesting, I think.


On Twitter tonight, I asked the following question:

It’s only fair that I start, I suppose. So here are some of my answers:

Things I Know:

  • How to write compelling fiction;
  • Writing craft and method;
  • How to program in PHP;
  • Linux; and
  • How to create and maintain a website.

Things I Wish I Knew Better:

  • The natural world around us;
  • How to write compelling narrative non-fiction;
  • How to brew beer;
  • How to program in other languages besides PHP; and
  • Hiking, backpacking, and engaging with the natural world.

Pretty decent, though short, lists, I think. What about you?

Well, then. Wheeze. Pant. Etc.

Next Thursday, I’m going in for the first of three sessions of a procedure known as “bronchial thermoplasty“, meant to improve my asthma, which has been flaring up irresponsibly since I had a respiratory infection about three months ago. When I went to my pulmonologist last week to discuss the procedure, he waggled his finger at me about my weight, explaining that not only is there significant inflammation in my lungs, my weight also prevents my lungs from expanding fully when I inhale.

Turns out he was right to chastise me.

This morning I weighed in at just a hair over 300 pounds.

This… this is unacceptable.

I’ve resolved before to lose weight; I mean, I’ve been overweight since junior high school, when my physician first chided me for it. I’ve never really stuck to it, though. I like food too much. I lead a sedentary lifestyle (mostly in front of the computer or behind a book). And everything else that’s bad for you.

And yet, there are so many things I want to do that require at least a modicum of physical fitness. For example, I would like to:

  • Visit Antarctica;
  • Visit the Galapagos Islands;
  • Go snorkeling;
  • Go SCUBA diving;
  • Go caving (not spelunking, mind you, I have no desire to do that);

…and so on. But right now I’m in a state where I can’t even walk around the block without getting wheezy and short of breath. Not ideal for anything, really, let alone wandering ice floes and saying Hi to penguins.

So here goes. I’m going to launch a personal initiative called “Zero to Hero” (yes I know it’s a song from Disney’s Hercules movie, just bear with me). It’s not much. Just a program of exercise and food intake that will hopefully get me into much better physical condition, hopefully by the time I’m fifty. ‘Cause frankly, I’m tired of where I’m at in this regard.

Ideally, the bronchial thermoplasty treatments will reduce my asthma symptoms to the point where I can walk around the block without wheezing. But they’re not the only thing I need. I need to take a serious look at how I’m conducting my life, and make some changes. The primary issue is I don’t like exercise, and also I like fatty, greasy, carb-rich foods. Preferably fried. So I need to figure out some way to make these changes in a way which makes me happy, which makes, say, running a 5K more enjoyable than sitting and staring at my computer during the same amount of time.

I’m open to suggestions.

In the meantime, though, please enjoy this video of an otter learning how to use an inhaler.

[A-Z] L is for Lungs Of Doom

inhalers-asthma-15997244

I’ve dealt with asthma since I was at least two years old, and I don’t remember a time in my life before it. Pretty much every day of my life I’ve taken pills, used inhalers, switched on a nebulizer, or made my way to a doctor’s office burdened with wheezes and coughs and what-not. I was hospitalized a few times in my childhood, but it’s been more than a decade since that’s happened.

The doctors told me that there was some chance I would grow out of my asthma, but that didn’t happen. As I grew older, the allergies and asthma decided to stick around, just for the hell of it. Perhaps they felt they would be left behind. Or something. I don’t know. The point is, I did not grow out of my asthma. On the other hand, I didn’t suffer the aggravation of adult-onset asthma. So that’s something, I guess.

Treatment for asthma has certainly changed over the years. I’m old enough to remember a drug called Marax, which was the front-line drug of choice for years. That was about the same time that adrenalin shots were the go-to choice for acute asthma attacks (my mom has memories of me being super hyped up on adrenalin after late night visits to the emergency room). Then for a long time, Theophylline was the drug of choice for maintenance. I asked several doctors what the mechanism behind Theophylline was, and they all gave me the same answer: No one knew, but it probably had something to do with a chemical called ATP, which lives in your cells and provides energy.

But now we live in an age where inhalers, not pills, are the primary defense against asthma. Sure, I’m still taking Singulair, but it’s a tiny thing compared to the huge horse pills of Theophylline and so on that I subsided on as a kid. But it’s primarily Advair and Spiriva these days, both of which look sort of like hockey pucks, and Albuterol for acute attacks. No more Marax. No more adrenalin shots.

One constant through all this is Prednisone, which is an anti-inflammatory steroid drug that is prescribed for a number of different conditions. Throughout high school and college I took 20 milligrams a day, every day. Now Prednisone has side effects: it makes me cranky and depressed, and it makes my appetite skyrocket. I hate it. Yet even now, I still end up having to take it from time to time. It sucks.

Still, I’m fortunate. I have a good insurance plan that lets me afford the drugs I need to keep breathing, and access to good doctors who know how to treat the asthma. For a long time, I didn’t, and I was using Primatine Mist — NOT a recommended alternative for someone with severe chronic asthma — to treat myself, because it was all I could afford. Those were in the days when I did not have insurance.

[POLITICS]

Which is why I’m personally all in favor of Obamacare, and utterly appalled at any attempt to defund or repeal it. I have insurance now through where I work, but I know several asthmatics who only have access to doctors and medication BECAUSE of the ACA. Getting rid of it would not only be appalling, but downright immoral, in my opinion.

[/POLITICS]

Anyway. That’s my lungs. That’s my post for today.


This long-winded wheeze brought to you by the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Cough. Cough. Hack. Wheeze. Etc.

Wheezing and Whining

As both of my regular readers probably know at this point, I have asthma, and I have it fairly bad. Not life-threateningly bad, and I don’t go to the emergency room on a regular basis (it’s been about three years since that’s been necessary), but I do get a nasty flareup every couple of months or so. Usually what triggers it is a minor cold or other bronchial infection. I seem to be prone to those. I’ve written about my asthma (and how it affects my political opinions) before, so I won’t go into detail here.

Anyway. Today I started taking the Prednisone again. Prednisone is an annoying medication. It works well and usually clears up a flareup in a few days, but I always hesitate to take it because of the side effects. For one thing, it really impacts my mood, and not in a good way. When Jennifer had to take Prednisone, it had euphoric side effects and she was full of energy. I know other people who are affected in this way. But no, not for me. Instead, Prednisone makes me cranky and irritable and depressed. My mood plummets, and I’m just not good company for the duration of the time that I’m taking it.

But the most annoying side effect of the Prednisone is that it makes me hungry. Or, rather, it interferes with that mechanism that tells me when I’m hungry and when I’m full, so that it reports to me that I’m never full. This is going to interfere with my weight loss efforts because I won’t be able to tell when I’m actually hungry or not.

So I’m going to attempt go go by visual cues this time. Instead of relying on my body to tell me when I’m hungry and when I’m not, I’m going to bear in mind that the human stomach is approximately the size of a clenched fist, and eat that much at my meals. And drinking water. Drinking lots of water. This will hopefully take the edge off the hunger. And perhaps bringing veggies to work with me. If I can’t control the amount I take in, at least I can control exactly what foods I take in. I hope.

Got ideas for how to deal with this? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

 

‘Tis the season for (wheezy) Holidailies

WheezeNoWortMo: A Three-Part Miscellaney

“I thought you were going to be done with the stinky part by the time I got home,” she says as she enters the house.

“Well…,” I reply, “I thought I was too.”

The house currently smells like wort. I think the smell of boiling malt and hops is heavenly, partially because it brings me back to my twenties, brewing beer with my friends Mike and Dylan (both of whom I’ve lost touch with over the years, which saddens me). Jennifer, though, doesn’t approve of the smell at all. “It doesn’t even smell like beer,” she says. “It just smells like wrong.”

I’m not sure what I can do about the smell, though, because it only occurred to me halfway through the boil to turn on the fan above the stove. I offered to open the windows and turn on the fans, but Jennifer says she can live with it. For now.

Currently the wort is cooling in an ice bath in the kitchen sink. I did a fine job, if I do say so myself, of keeping the kitchen clean while doing this. The cans of extract I placed on a paper towel in case they leaked. The hops were contained to their little bags. The sanitizing solution (because brewing is, according to the book I’m reading, 75% about cleaning) sitting in a big plastic bucket on the floor with a lid on to keep out curious cats. The boiling pot was cleaned and sanitized. So was the lid. And everything that went into the pot at any point is being cleaned and sanitized. Maybe I’m going a little overboard, but better to be over-clean than have skunky beer, right?

The intention with this beer is to make a nice vanilla stout. I’m not sure how I’m going to go about adding the vanilla flavoring. Jennifer has some vanilla beans that she’s willing to let me use. All the recipes say I’m supposed to soak them in bourbon for a few days, then add them at the second ferment. It’s that “second ferment” part that worries me. I have a secondary fermenter, but I’m worried about transferring the wort. Because that’s what I do. I worry. More on that some other time.

I’ll keep you in the loop on the details of the brew, because I’m sure you’re fascinated.

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Meanwhile, this stupid upper respiratory infection can go away any time now. It knocked me out for two days before Thanksgiving, then went away, then decided to take another whack at my lungs last Thursday. Jennifer’s been stuck with the same cold for that entire time (though now she’s just coughing instead of dealing with all the other symptoms). During those few days where I was feeling fine, Jennifer once said, “I can’t believe this cold didn’t stick in your lungs for a month this time.” Me, too. She was also kind of jealous that while she was coughing and hacking, I was breathing clear. That’s usually the opposite of what happens in our household.

Wheeze, wheeze. That’s what I’m doing now. My grandpa used to call me Julius Wheezer, and I have one friend who calls me “Wheezer!” whenever she and I get together. Better than “Geezer”, I suppose.

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Did you know that I participate in National Novel Writing Month every year? I know, it’s like I never talk about it at all! This year, I wrote Love in the Time of Cthulhu and put the entire thing online as I was writing it. You can find it here and read it all if you like. I know, I haven’t mentioned this before. My activities during November are a closed book, aren’t they?

Yesterday was the Thank God It’s Over (TGIO) party for the region, our traditional post-NaNoWriMo get-together where we commiserate, eat, talk about writing, eat, socialize, and eat some more (though I was actually eating very little because, well, I wasn’t hungry — I worked on that resistance muscle, so to speak). About fifteen people showed up, and we all had a good time. Some of us even got up the nerve to read portions of their novels out loud to the group. I did not, because I was afraid of my lungs conking out on me halfway through.

It’s funny that we can get together with these people, the other regional participants of National Novel Writing Month, hang out with them, chat, write, socialize, and call them friends for a month, then not see them at all again for the rest of the year.

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Here, have a picture of two of our cats, Rupert and Sherman. Jennifer took this picture yesterday, and I think it says more about them than I could in words. Click to emcatenate.

RupertSherman

What about you? What have you done with your weekend?

‘Tis the season for (stinky) Holidailies