Planned Flexility

Last night my dad and I went out for some much needed bonding, deciding to see the film “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.” Not until we picked up our tickets at the counter did I realize that it was in 3D. Although I expected a killer action flick, I was unsure how much better 3D was than regular 2D. Seriously, the last time I saw a film in 3D was 20+ years ago at Disney World with Michael Jackson’s “Captain EO.” Could they really improve significantly from that amazing Disney ride?? Hey, whatever. I’ll Just enjoy the new experience….

So I put on those cheesy glasses and sat back, ready for something new and (hopefully) exciting. Oh wait! Did I use the restroom? Check! Snacks…Check! Soda…Check! Cell ringer off….Check! Where are the glasses? Oh, duh. Resting on my head….but I’m forgetting something. I examine the one of two oxygen tanks standing in the isle next to me, making sure it’s on and constantly flowing. I shine my cell phone light and watch that the needle stays on “Full” for a few moments. Whew. All good.

(On a previous movie night I turned the tank “ON.” The needle marked “full” so I put my attention toward the film. I had neglected to turn the nob all the way so I breathed the fresh air that was caught in the nozzle from last use; Im guessing it lasted 20 seconds. Fifteen minutes later, in a sudden spell of light-headedness, I looked at the gauge to see it was on “Empty.” How long had I been without O2???  What if I had fainted or hadn’t been with a group?? That episode scared the Sh*t outa me! Now I OVER-plan when it comes to packing oxygen tanks.)

Back to the story: So the “Hansel and Gretel” tees up and the first 30 seconds reveal an unfocused, blue trailer. Uh-Oh! Fortunately, the 3D snaps into place and within the first 15 minutes a kick-ass fight scene occurs that has me grabbing at oncoming blood and broken branches. All sorts of gruesome baddassery takes place while having an original twist on a familiar tale. Definitely a must see….In 3D!

This film event went smoothly but outings can also go very bad. Even when they don’t go wrong, the worry of something going wrong can ruin your enjoyment. We think of preparation as something necessary to accomplish difficult tasks but when you have breathing issues (or any issues for that matter), every task is potentially difficult. Attack Life!

Hansel-Gretel-Witch-Hunters-Poster

 

Small Victories, Big Meaning Pt.2

Last post I started talking about how I compensate to accomplish tasks and feel fulfilled. Here are a couple more every day activities that become more of a challenge for people with breathing difficulties.

4. Grocery Shopping – I grew up grocery shopping with my mom, seeing her make her list; organized by produce, meats, dairy, grains, canned goods and other delicious treats, ending with frozen stuff. The idea is that you start gathering all your veggies, meats and so on as you walk around the store. This way, you end in the frozen food section before you check out. Unfortunately, her organizational example didn’t set. When I shopped alone there was no method to my madness and I searched for items aimlessly around the store. Obviously this put a strain on my endurance. Pushing the grocery cart while pulling an oxygen canister didn’t help my breathing either. Even now, sometimes what starts out as an easy 30 minute trip for 2 meals turns into an 1 ½ hr odyssey with a weeks worth of random items!

As my oxygen needs grew, I started planning my grocery trips according to my mother’s organizational lessons. The positives are two fold: The outer produce is healthier so by avoiding time spent amongst the isles, I’m less likely to be tempted by processed garbage. Sticking to an ordered list lets me grab the necessities in one swoop, saving me time and energy. Anyone familiar with me knows I’m a big foodie! I love to cook and be creative in the kitchen! When I find fantastic looking recipes online or on cooking shows, I choose two or three to try which will last me a week. When I have an organized list, I spend less time shopping and more time cooking! Plus, I don’t have to cook every day and can enjoy leftovers 4 days out of the week! (saving time and energy!) If it’s too exhausting to shop for three meals worth of groceries, break it down and shop for one meal. I can tell you from experience, sometimes inconvenience is a small price to pay for not being exhausted.

5. In the same vein of sacrificing convenience for breathing ability, I found it necessary to break up the cleaning agenda into multiple days. Instead of    vacuuming, doing laundry, mopping, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, etc…I put away things as I use them. A difficult task to learn was doing my dishes after I eat. Do the laundry when the basket’s full. Make the bed in the morning and tidy my room before I sleep. I try to stay in a general state of organization to ease my workload. As for the most strenuous tasks like mopping, vacuuming and hard-core cleaning, hire a maid! Or if you’re like me and aren’t made of money, alternate weeks to do the heavy stuff.

These are just a few activities I’ve been able to tackle with a little creativity and determination. Take your time and pace yourself…you will succeed. Remember it’s not how fast you finish the race….it’s completing it that counts!

~Breathe Easy~

Small Victories, Big Meaning

“Every day is a new adventure,” or so the saying goes. But the journey is not always an easy road. Sometimes there are not rocks, nor boulders….but mountains in my way! The type of mountains so enormous that I feel like I won’t reach the top.

People with breathing challenges have difficulty simply keeping up with normal peer activities,  sometimes causing an overwhelming lethargic feeling of isolation. Lengthy isolation has caused a social butterfly like myself to feel depressed on more than one occasion.

My lung complications call for “supplemental oxygen,” which is just a fancy word for oxygen tanks. Without these tanks, my O2 blood level dips and I become dizzy. With them, I am able to successfully adapt to most situations at my own pace. The main challenge I face is overcoming fear of running out of oxygen tanks while traveling. For me, a full tank usually lasts about 2 hours (on 4 liters).  The fear of being stranded on the road or in public unable to breathe is no way to live!

So how do I stay positive and not become overwhelmed? There are tricks I’ve discovered to accomplishing daily activities while preserving oxygen, energy and peace of mind.

  1. Showering – Nothing is better than starting the day with a warm, refreshing shower. For me, the steamy moisture adds the extra benefit of loosening up lung mucus which I easily cough up, avoiding congestion and invigorating the senses! The catch 22 is that while the steam opens up my dry lung membranes, making it easier to take in oxygen, being in the steam makes it difficult to breathe. So I stay in long enough to moisten my lungs yet short enough to avoid becoming light headed. Once I found this shower time “sweet spot” I began to use a kitchen timer to alert me *BUZZ!!* when it’s time to dry off. This method has produced unexpected results: breathing easier, building time management and; because I now take quicker showers; conserving water! Kudos to me!
  2. Cooking – Another task that can be strenuous for me is meal preparation. With T.V shows like ‘Top Chef’ and ‘Dinner Impossible,’ entire cable channels, magazines and youtube videos devoted to cooking, chefs – amateur and professionals alike, are able to share their culinary passions with the world. A few years back, the cooking bug bit me and I started by experimenting with ramen noodles with mixed veggies. As my comfort in the kitchen grew, I slowly progressed to homemade pasta dishes and pot pies (still, my favorite recipes!) Despite my love of food, organizing, chopping, measuring and mixing are difficult for me. The whole ordeal is not only time consuming but takes a fair amount of planning and endurance. By the time I’ve pulled the dish out of the oven to serve, I feel exhausted, unable to fully enjoy the fruits of my labor. *Tear* “There’s got to be a more efficient way to cook!” My “Ah-Ha….Duh” moment came to me out of nowhere. Chop and measure the ingredients into separate containers the previous day. Marinade, if necessary, overnight. All I’d have to do at dinner time would be mix pre-measured ingredients together and bake: BAM! Just like on those cooking shows! Through my culinary journey I realized that the harder I worked preparing the meal, the better it tasted….but the preparation is never as fun as the eating!
  3. Walking – Everyone and their mother knows walking is the best aerobic exercise  we can do; working all the major organs in the body! Unfortunately, the dual challenges of low lung capacity and lugging around heavy O2 tanks makes walking at the bottom of my list of favorite activities. Still, knowing the upshot is the undeniable feeling of invigoration, I suck it up and plow through it like a shower. I’m always amazed at the irony that exercise causes shortness of breath yet energizes lung capacity and function. Go Figure!

To Be Continued…

~Breathe Easy~