We walked in silence on our way to my car.
It’s autumn. This is my favourite season, and I would love to say that I am just distracted by the jewel-toned leaves decorating the trees. It’s more, though, that the promise of winter in the air takes my breath away. Literally.
“You’re wheezing again,” he says.
For a few minutes, I don’t answer him. It’s too hard to remember how to breathe, and it’s always so embarrassing when the slightest things leave me gasping for air. When I do, though, the frustration in my voice is nearly palpable as I remind him that I don’t wheeze. A loosing bet, I guess, with someone who has a stethoscope, but I never learn.
For years, there has been so much I just couldn’t do.
In university, I missed five months of class because the simple act of walking to the bus stop would leave me with a violent cough. When it finally subsided, I would always be useless the rest of the day. Lots of things are like that for me. The small stuff, you know? Like the way mowing the lawn or vacuuming tends to leave me gasping for air in minutes. It routinely takes me upwards of 7 hours to shovel the driveway on particularly cold winter days.
I always just assumed I was lazy and out of shape, that all I needed to do was to keep pushing harder… or that it was just allergies, or maybe just a particularly nasty cold. You know, the kind that lasts for a year. I thought that living like that was normal, and so that’s how I lived for a decade.
Things changed when I started to carpool with a paramedic. Again and again, he told me that something was wrong… that sometimes a cough wasn’t a just cough, and little by little I decided that this was the year that everything would change.
I went to a see a doctor for the first time in years, just as terrified that my friend was right as I was worried that I would be told that nothing was wrong. When I was finally diagnosed with asthma, it was devastating.
The first time, though, that Ventolin stopped my cough? I cried.
I didn’t know it was possible to breathe so well.
It’s been confusing since then. I don’t have a family doctor and, unless I leave this small town, that’s unlikely to change. There’s no continuity to my care. I’ve seen physicians, nurse practitioners, a pulmonologist and an allergist – it’s never the same person twice, and the opinions change just as often. One week, my Allergist will talk about asthma control and the next a Nurse Practitioner will insist that I would be better off discontinuing all my medication. That this is all just in my head, or maybe just allergies.
It’s exhausting and frustrating and sometimes I’m not sure I care anymore what’s wrong with me. In the end, though, I still feel better than I ever have before and I’m terrified of feeling like I used to. It’s nice to be able to breathe, you know?