I’ve been so encouraged by how each run really is getting easier. The next three runs will be 8 reps of running for 90 seconds and recovering for a full two minutes. Even with the longer running bursts I find that I want to keep running.
This week leads me to my asthma story, which I want to share as a bit of a public health message. Since I learned about asthma after my own diagnosis, my nursing mind has started to notice symptoms in other people who think they don’t have it. My mom is an example. She has a chronic cough, is unathletic just like I was until I started treating the asthma, and coughs a lot at night. I’ve learned that asthma is a misunderstood condition that carries a specific rep, but the clinical picture has wide variations. My asthma, for instance is intrinsic – which means it isn’t caused by outside sources like allergens, it is just part of my makeup – and falls under the category of moderate persistent, which means I have symptoms every day if untreated, sometimes all day. For the issues I have had with asthma, and some very not-fun episodes, I have been very lucky that I’ve never had an attack that sent me to the emergency room or fully prevented me from breathing.
This chick here? Paula Radcliffe, the best chick runner on earth. She was diagnosed with asthma at age 14!
They say nurses are the worst at taking care of themselves. I am a prime example. Some things that might have tipped me off over the years:
1. Mountain biking with my friends in high school. During a couple of rides, I would have allergies to weeds or grass, and begin wheezing and freaking out so badly that I would have to turn around, ride home in this condition, and lay at the bottom of a steaming shower to clear myself up.
2. Many nights in my life, I’ve lay in bed thinking, “It’s a real pain to have to hold my throat open when I’m trying to go to sleep… I wonder why on one else ever complains about this.” This is not a joke. I would actually have to be conscious of physically widening and opening my throat in order to breathe at night, and this was evidently very irritating to me…
3. During a very tragic time in my life, I tried to take up running as a way of getting my thoughts controlled and working out my anger. I could only run a couple of laps around my tiny block before I just couldn’t run anymore, even though my legs would never hurt, I would never get nauseous, I just ran out of breath.
4. During one of those lame attempts at running, one late fall day, I think I actually had a legit asthma attack, even though at the time I just thought I was out of shape. That has happened so… many… times… but this time particularly sucked. It was cold, I was running through a field, and the air hitting my throat caused what I now know was spasming – a hyper reactive airway – and it was incredibly painful. I just thought, “Oh, cold air hurts in your throat, weird.” I was in pain for a couple of hours, wheezing terribly, laying on my living room floor trying to catch my breath for quite a while. Note to current self: don’t run in cold air without inhaler. #propstomeforlivinginflorida
There are countless instances in my past which I can now look back on and say, “Hey, dummy, you have asthma.” Which is essentially what my doctor said when she diagnosed me:
“Oh, so you have asthma.”
“No, I dont…”
“Yes, yes you do.”
“I’m 30 today, I would know if I had asthma.”
“Well Happy Birthday, now you know. Sorry to give you the worst birthday present ever.”
That is really how it went.
So today… asthma could be a challenge for me, a mountain that I see as insurmountable on top of the fact that I have always believed I’m incapable of athletics anyway. But, like I’ve said, I am pretty driven and competitive, and I have decided to make it into a molehill instead. As long as I treat my condition well, stay on top of it, listen to my body, and keep my docs in the loop, asthma is just another notch in the belt that I will wear when I can say “Look at all I’ve conquered; I am a runner.”
This week, I visited my new doctor (just moved to Florida). I’ve had a few uncontrolled symptoms and we’re trying to get to the bottom of that. If you have asthma and you are not controlled, ask your doctor about these two things before you add yet another med:
Silent Reflux: I have this! Silent reflux is essentially the same thing as GERD, which a lot of people know about or have. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or, heartburn. Silent reflux is the same pathophysiologically, but the acid stays at the level of the larynx, so sufferers don’t have that typical heartburn pain that comes with GERD. The symptoms are pretty specific though, and I can check off every one: oftentimes a hoarse voice, chronic and constant throat clearing, feeling of a lump in the throat, increased symptoms after eating, unproductive cough, sensation of being unable to swallow, and often these people have asthma because the acid does aggravate the airway. If you have these symptoms, make sure you talk to your doctor, because untreated acid in this area is a bad thing. Congesting acid over a long period of time around specific cells can cause funky proliferation (my favorite medical term) which means, you guessed it, cancer. Silent reflux is treated with PPIs (proton pump inhibitors). I have only been on them for two days and I can’t believe the difference.
Vocal cord dysfunction: I probably have this too. I have an endoscopy on Monday so they can see the little suckers, and if we determine that’s what’s going on, to speech pathology I go.
It feels good to get these things taken care of. It makes me feel optimistic, because when I can eliminate factors that are holding me back, I’ll be a better runner!
Speaking of asthma and collapsing on runs, stay tuned for my next post when I’ll tell you about the Road ID.
Here is a great little jot from Runner’s World about tips for runners with asthma: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/running-asthma