“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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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…