The last few weeks have been very freeing, and they have provided a new path for my life with some increased hope. All this greatness is due to just a couple simple facts. Fitbit came out with a product that also tracks your heart rate, and I finally realized I need a shit load of more portable oxygen to live the kind of life I need/want to live.
I have been aware that exercise is good for my lungs for sometime now. However, with the issue of my heart rate and pulmonary hypertension and not really knowing what is happening inside my body at any given time, it is scary to try to do stuff on my own. I’ve been attempting to get into pulmonary rehab since the end of December, but some minor insurance issues have delayed that. (Hopefully, those will be worked out very soon now.) The Fitbit showed me that if I use my oxygen anytime I’m on the move, my heart rate does not go into scary high places. The Fitbit showed me that even if I’m on the elliptical, it is still difficult for me (simply due to being out of shape and an inexperienced exerciser) to make it up to my peak heart rate as long as I have my oxygen.
I have been working out at the gym several times a week. I have been taking walks like a crazy person. I look for every opportunity to stay moving. While at my daughter’s swim class, I don’t sit on the bench for 30 minutes; I walk around the pool. At the playground,again,no bench for me. At the hospital the other day waiting to do some blood work, I didn’t wait sitting down. I walked. I now walk my daughter to the school bus in the morning and walk to pick up my son from preschool. There is a field by our house that I can take the kids to and walk around it. I can walk down the street while waiting for the bus to arrive in the afternoon. I am even enjoying chores around the house knowing that it is providing me an opportunity to walk. Hell, I even saw one night that I was 1500 steps away from getting a Fitbit badge for 25,000 steps for the day, so in our home theater,while watching The Interview, I WALKED!
I have a seriously high level of motivation for all this crazy walking. My lungs love it. Before I was diagnosed and treated, I could count on one to two “good” days a week when I could actually do relatively normal activities (like clean my kitchen or do the laundry). As time went on, prior to getting the oxygen, that decreased further. I was sitting around most of the time, and winded, the moment I thought I could change that situation. Since being diagnosed, treated, and having oxygen introduced into my life, I started having several good days before a bad day would come along and keep me in the bed for most of it.
Then I started walking, and something amazing happened. I went 11 days before a bad one came upon me. And that 11th day happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, and I had two social events planned for that evening that I was starting to feel pretty sure I’d be canceling, which sucked, because I don’t get out much. As I lay in bed with my chest tight and in pain and feeling how difficult it was for me to breath in and beginning to feel sorry for myself, I started thinking, “Maybe, just maybe, if I took a walk, I would feel better.” I started thinking about how my lungs might just open up with some fresh air and exercise. I started to imagine those endorphins making their way through my body. It took me a few minutes to get up the umph to make it happen, but I figured, “What the hell?” I was already planning on staying in bed and canceling all my plans, so it was at least worth a shot. If it turned out to be a horrible idea, and if it made matters worse, then at least I’d know. So, there was to be a “lessoned learned” opportunity in there.
It wasn’t a horrible idea. I packed up all three kids into the stroller, and we walked through the woods and to a playground. It worked. I felt better. I went to both my social events. I enjoyed grown-ups and wine and too much food. It was amazing. I still haven’t had another full-on bad day, yet. I may sometimes feel like one is just lurking around corner, but I just keep walking in hopes that it just won’t catch up to me!
I have four types of oxygen. I have a concentrator at home that I now have a 50 foot cord for, so I can get anywhere in my house. I have a large canister type one that most people think of when they think of portable oxygen, the type that people roll around with them. This is the type I use at the gym and at my Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class. Then I have two, different sizes of backpack oxygen, which is what you’d see me in out and about.
The concentrator is great for at home because it just plugs into the wall, so there is never an issue of running out (I’m suspecting our last electric bill increase was due to the increase in the use of the oxygen.) But this is the most tethered I feel. Fifty feet of cord is great; except it is always getting snagged, or someone is tripping over it and, of course, I have to be conscious of it at all times. My hand is hardly ever away from moving it here or there. So sure there are downsides. But think of it like this: I sat in my living room for weeks, months even, unable to do the most basic things like playing with my kids, taking them outside, cleaning up my house, etc. I wondered why, if it would ever change; or even sometimes I wondered if I was making it all up in my head— there wasn’t anything wrong with me but simply me failing at my life. And now, all I have to do is tether myself to a line of oxygen, and I can do EVERYTHING I want to do ANYTIME I want to do it?!
(As a side note, my husband has mentioned how much he’s enjoyed never having to wonder where I am in the house now that he can just follow my cord. I love living with that kind of “glass-half-full” kind of a person.)
The photo above (if you are reading this from the blog page, rather than the email version) is from a glorious day when a friend took me on her ATV all over a National Forest, and we found this secluded gem of a place. That day showed me the freedom still left in my life, even while being tethered to a tank.