Thursday, February 05, 2015

Chicken Soup for the Realist's Soul

I have pneumonia.

As an homage to my illness I created that Soup image this morning. I am not a good sick person.
Laying around? Not doing stuff?

Gives me anxiety.

Even though I feel terrible I am not sick enough to just lay here and sleep or read or watch movies. I need to feel productive. Even if it is production of useless things. I need to do. Always. I've already made homemade mac-n-cheese for dinner, fielded work calls, answered emails, showered, did some laundry, made beds, and put on clean pj's . . .

Freaking pneumonia.

This not the first time and certain to not be the last. Respiratory infections seem to be my lot.
How I got here is not a terrifically interesting story.  Not even slightly heroic. Though, if I am being honest, hubris might have played a part in all this. Ah, the Greeks, now they knew how to write tragedies. Alas though, I am more Laurence Sterne,  a modern Tristram Shandy and of course, running is my hobby horse. . .

However, if you happen care or want to know how I got pneumonia, I will tell you the story. But also, feel free to skim this part. Skip it even.

This is, after all, a digressive tale within a digressive tale. A serpent eating its tail. It will come full circle.

The Month of Cough: January 2015, a Pneumonic Evolution:
It is Ryan's fault. He gave me the cold. A tiny, brief cold that devolved into a sinus infection and bronchitis in early January. Treated with a Z pack, Mucinex, Flonase and my Albuterol inhaler. And rest. Way too much rest.

Rest means no running, swimming, or biking. I did none of that fun stuff for 9 long days. (Possibly my family, friends and coworkers with direct contact with me suffered more from that rest period than I did.)  Definitely dire straits and uncharted territory for an athlete (that's moi!) who hasn't gone more than 5 days without some form of exercise since the birth of her first child 14 years ago.

Completely rested, anxious and almost healthy (still snotty and coughing) I chose to run the marathon I had spent the previous months training for. Months where I gave up stuff; sacrificing for my sport. I could NOT not toe the line. I was playing the optimist. Hoping for the best. Staying the course.

Unfortunately the marathon did not go so well. I turned out a 3:49 on a course I had previously run 3:28 on and was definitely in shape to better that. But as I came to learn, no matter your fitness, training, experience, perfect weather, etc. --26.2 miles run breathing through a straw is not ideal.

Breathing through a straw? Yeah, that's what bronchitis and asthma and sinus infections feel like. So not impossible to run if you are fairly fit but not really ideal. Based on personal experience if you want to try it for yourself, my advice is that you should be realistic in your performance expectations. Let me be the first to tell you that no amount of optimism is going to change the reality of spastic bronchial passages. Try as you might, you cannot wish it away with good feelings and positive thoughts.

Two days after the marathon debacle the fallout was a big bad asthma flare up created from a combination of cold weather, exertion and lingering bronchitis and sinus infection. I was prescribed  a course of Prednisone (if there ever is a devil of drug this is it), Advair, Albuterol and Flonase. It took 5 days and FINALLY my cough and snot had gone away.

So I did what any healthy runner would do after having spent an entire week NOT running. I went for a run. And then the next day another run and more miles and so on and so on until I had ran for 10 days straight and 75 miles. Really, this was nothing unusual training wise for me and it was glorious to be back.

Tuesday night, the 10th day back to glorious running I ran a little 6ish mile run and came home coughing. I coughed all night and took some Benadryl and used my Advair inhaler and I figured I would be good to go for my 2 hour run after work Wednesday afternoon.

Only Wednesday morning I woke up and I had a yucky productive cough and my back and chest hurt. I could feel my lungs. I could feel the congestion on my right side under my collar bone and behind my right breast. Still, I thought, it will get better as the day goes on as I wondered, where the hell did this crap come from?

And as the day went on, I went to work, did work stuff and had internal negotiations:  I will just run for an hour after work. I will not do that 5k this weekend. Instead, just a longish run, slow.

I mentioned to a fellow coworker that my back was really sore. "Must have been the push ups I did the other day," I told him. Though push ups don't usually make me sore. I've been doing regular pushups for years now (fighting the lunch-lady arms one push-up at a time.)

His comment was "push-ups don't make your back sore. They make your chest sore. You're sick again."

"I am not!" I told him and I argued with him between coughs  that push-ups could make your back sore.

He said, "Only if you are doing them wrong."

Fighting words!

I confirmed that I do not put my knees on the floor when I do push-ups and challenged him to a push-up off the next time I wore pants to work. Stupid skirt.

As the day went on I felt worse and my back started to really hurt and my cough got worse and I argued with my coworkers that I was not sick again. However, while out on an errand, I called my doctor and requested an appointment and possibly a chest x-ray. I've had pleurisy before and pneumonia and it was all starting to feel kind of familiar. Though, I really did not feel that bad. Mostly I wanted to avoid another course of steroids and was looking for confirmation that I had  pulled a muscle or slept funny.

I left work at 3 pm and by 4:15 pm I had been examined, had a chest  x-ray and declared pneumonic. After a brief argument with my doctor on the course of treatment, he agreed to forego the Levaquin for Doxycycline if I agreed to come back in 48 hours for a recheck. And, of course, stick to my arsenal of inhaled steroids too. Done. Of course, we didn't shake it on it, me being a germy sick person and all.

So over being sick.

I didn't ask about when I could run. I have learned when you ask that question in the throes of serious respiratory infections doctors get kind of annoyed.

End Digression

While waiting for my prescription yesterday I Facebooked a status update "Freaking Pneumonia."

An hour later my mom called.

"Are you in the hospital!" she asked.

"No," I said. "I am at home."

"Pneumonia is serious," she said and requested all the boring details.  I repeated the sad tale of pneumonic Nat and told her how I had been running and was fine just the other day.  I admitted though that I struggled to keep up with Pookie (little sister) when we ran 8 miles on Sunday. But I had run 17 miles the day before and felt great so that was probably why.  I also admitted that I had been feeling a little tired and puny the past few days but had chalked it up to stress and insomnia. I am stressed. And sometimes I don't sleep. Those things sometimes are reasons why you might not feel awesome. Why you might feel a little puny. But those are not reasons to not run.

She asked me what it felt like. Pneumonia.

It hurts, my back is sore and it hurts when I breathe. My lungs feel like they have a weight, they are heavy.  I have chills and sometimes sweats and I feel tired. Dizzy at points. Winded. Light headed when I stand up too fast. I cough gross stuff up. It gives me a headache.


"No, I don't have fever. Then I really would feel bad. But I almost never have fever. Seems like I only have fever with the flu."

"Hmm," she said, "I've never experienced that. I've never had pneumonia. I've had bronchitis."

And then I explained the differences and how this is different than I how felt earlier this month when I had bronchitis and then the asthma.

Then she went into the lecture about I had better not run. "People die of pneumonia. Promise me you won't run."

"I can't run," I told her. "My lungs hurt and I get tired just walking across the room. I wasn't like this yesterday. Yesterday I ran a 6 and half miles in 51 minutes. Today I can barely walk up stairs without feeling exhausted.  Trust me. I am not running."

"Can I bring you anything? Chicken noodle soup?"

Hmmm, I thought, yummy. Homemade chicken noodle soup? I haven't had that in forever. While she lectured me on not running and the danger of what would happen if I did,  I thought about homemade chicken noodle soup and a grilled cheese with pickles and a coke. I wondered what other homemade stews or sauces she might have tucked away in her freezer that she could bring me. She is always making food and freezing it for later.  . . Vegetable soup. Lasagna. Beef Stew. Spaghetti Sauce. Poblano Chicken Enchiladas. . .

"No, I am fine." I told her. "I was planning to go to work but my manager told me to stay home so I will be home but I don't need anything."

"Okay, "she said. "Well just let me know if you need me to bring you over a can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle. I have some in my pantry."