This is not my favourite season for many reasons but mainly because winter bring short days and longer illnesses. Everyone I know is snotty, coughing or “ if they’re a bloke “ suffering from a combination of botulism, typhus and dysentery easily categorised as man flu“. Me? I get all of that and as a bonus disease permanent asthma.
I’ve had it forever; diagnosed about the age of seven and so subjected to much prodding and sage nodding of heads. Treatment back then was the hated Spinhaler” into which you inserted a powdery tablet and then cracked it open using a shotgun ratchet action. All that remained was to suck in the ensuing dust, although this was a tad problematic when your peak flow was averaging about 300. Peak flow is a good measurement of lung capacity and mine’s now about normal for a bloke of my age. Back then it was about half of what it should have been which reminds me of many a night desperately wrenching critical air into tortured lungs.
A few lucky people grow out of Asthma but not many, leaving the rest of us have to manage it“. First seek and destroy “ or at least avoid “ the triggers that fire it up in the first place. Not easy when this list includes animal hair, colds, chest infections and hay-fever just for starters. And stress which is the diagnostically lazy rubber stamp to almost everything “ can’t sleep? Probably stress related, can’t stay awake? Are you feeling stressed out? Getting Ashtma at odd times? Probably need to check out your stress levels.
Secondly, drugs. A daily steroid now delivered through a simple gas shot straight into the cakehole and crisis management via the never-to-be-left-at-home Ventalin. Amazing stuff, opens up the pipes in an instant and has the added benefit of removing blue as your primary colour.
I’m pretty lucky in that it doesn’t really affect me that much or that often anymore. At school, it allowed me to skive games and the muddy cross country run was always for other people. But it’s also a cross to bare as it makes you different and so easy prey to pick on and tease. I hardly noticed it while studying for my degree as drinking beer and talking shit doesn’t require much lung action. One night though, it struck with perfect timing “ I had neither drugs nor access to any, being some five miles from civilisation and about half of that to a phone box.
My panicky and breathless state meant even five hundred yards would have been way beyond me, and only an early returning friend and a hurtling drive to the hospital prevented something even more serious. The feeling of helplessness was replaced by an easy breathing calm as the nurses gave me an oxygen mask and latterly some pretty strong steroids. That sorted out the attack but played merry hell with my exam results the following week. Any more spaced out and I’d have been rocketed out of the galaxy. Still, didn’t die so every cloud and all that.
But now I hardly notice it most of the time because the management of the disease becomes second nature. This last couple of weeks provided a nasty reminder of life as it was most of the time. And that got me to wondering if this may be the default state again in later years. But not for long – that’s not a road I really want to go down as without working lungs, too much of the stuff I love becomes impossible. Although managing the illness is a double edged sword because when you feel fine, a couple of cheeky Marlboro lights don’t seem to matter “ well they do now feeling like this.
I don’t do New Year Resolutions. It’s all broken promises, misery and time bombed failure, but you may be able to guess that this year I am making one and it’s not up for discussion or circumvention.
Forty in August, mortality fear, nagging suspicion that my body is going to start letting me down. Now there’s a cheery thought for the first day of 2007.