Project 22 – Chapter 18
Chapter 18 – My lungs
My lung journey has been long and is still ongoing. I hope to, one day, no longer associate with it, but for now it’s with me and I’m attacking it from all angles – or so I thought.
I had a conversation with my beautiful friend Kylie Wolfig recently and she said ‘you’re doing everything physical, but what about the emotions?’
Yes, what about the emotions?
Grief is held in the lungs, I’ve got that bit but maybe there’s more I need to do and maybe it’s from past lifetimes that I don’t know about. Perhaps I’m holding onto other peoples grief, plus all the associated emotions linked to grief like sadness, anger, depression, love, frustration, anxiety etc.
Maybe my lungs are an example of the roller coaster of emotions that our bodies go through in life generally? Maybe.
My physical journey with my lungs started in the womb, but in terms of this issue, it probably started when I first got laryngitis and tonsillitis. I was 18 and just finishing year 12.
From then on, for the next 20ish years, tonsillitis visited me about 4 times a year. Sure, I played a part. I would be run down but I’d still go out on a Saturday night and then end up sick for a week. It wasn’t ideal but it was how I lived life.
Then there were times when I just got run down from life.
Interestingly, since I had Teddy, and a couple of years before that, I didn’t have tonsillitis. I actually haven’t had it since, but I did get bronchial pneumonia in 2015, and then again in 2017.
I did such a good job in 2015 (funny, not funny) that it affected 3 parts of my lungs and took 3 rounds of antibiotics to fix, but I still had a residual shortness of breath that would come up from time to time.
This shortness of breath had been with me since about 2011. It would come up when I was running and I just couldn’t get my breath to regulate. However, on other days, there was no problem, I could run for days.
In 2015, when I had bronchial pneumonia, it took me 6 months to go to the Dr and I only did it because of two issues:
- I’d gotten in the pool for Teddy’s swimming lessons and the moment that my chest went under the water, I couldn’t stay there, I had to stand up. The pressure on my lungs was too much, and
- Later that afternoon, at Teddy’s 2nd birthday party, I nearly passed out in the kitchen.
Now sure, I could have done something earlier, but in the main I felt I was managing it and I had a lot going on. It’d started a new job in the May and came down with the flu. Because I’d just started the job and we were about to go away to the US for a month, I felt that I couldn’t take time off work.
Remember this was pre-covid, now being sick at the office wouldn’t happen.
My symptoms settled when we went to the US, and it was coming into Spring at home, so everything seemed fine. Of course it wasn’t and things got worse.
My Dr was very thorough, and I was back in her office every 2 weeks or so to manage how things were going. Once I’d had the 3 rounds of antibiotics, and I was feeling better, I saw my Dr about my shortness of breath, but nothing came up. They tested me for asthma, but I didn’t have that.
There were no red flags and because I was functioning ‘normally’ it was a case of ‘get on with life and see what happens’ which, me being me, was happy to do.
My next round of Bronchial Pneumonia
Somehow, I got through the winter of 2016. I’d started running and did a 5km fun run, and then a 10km fun run. Towards the end of the year, I wasn’t super well so I went back to the Dr and took another round of antibiotics. Again everything settled.
Then, in 2017, I was on court at netball and I honestly thought I was going to pass out. I, of course, got through the game and then went to the Drs. Same diagnosis, bronchial pneumonia, but not as bad this time.
I can’t say everything settled, because it didn’t, but I felt like I was going around in circles, so I just got on with things.
My biggest issues came about when I would lie down, and I’d cough up phlegm, about 2 tablespoons full. This would lead to me feeling exhausted and, when I could, I’d take myself to bed.
I also had night sweats. Sometimes waking up drenched, to the point I had to change my top and turn my pillow over.
On this, yes I was in my 40s, and one of the symptoms of peri menopause is night sweats, but I just didn’t have any other symptoms, so for me it was linked to my lungs and my body needing to expel that mucus.
I was at a point where I honestly didn’t know where to go or what to do. General medicine would just give me antibiotics again, which worked short term but not long term.
I’d seen a Chinese Herbalist and the herbs had worked for a while but then everything came back. I wasn’t consistent in managing my health at that point, nor was I proactive in going back and asking deeper questions. This wasn’t an issue, but it was part of my growth and something I needed to learn how to do.
Time to go deeper with Orla
In March 2019, I started studying health coaching. One of the philosophies of the school was that I had to be my first client, which I explored. My eating was clean (or so I thought) and I was working out regularly, I was fit. I was studying things that lit me up, I was mediating and my mental health was strong.
We also learnt about Ayurveda and Functional Medicine. The idea of diving into my health on a deeper level was born and in January 2020, when fires broke out through Australia, and Canberra had the worst air pollution in the world, worst than Delhi, India, I stared coughing up blood.
I wondered about consumption, also known as tuberculosis and I knew I couldn’t fuck around with this any more.
I reached out to a friend to find out what Functional Drs she recommended and she sent me to Dr Orla Teahan, Live Well Holistic Wellness Centre. When I rang to book in with Orla I couldn’t get in for 6 weeks, but magically a booking opened up the following week, it was meant to be.
I had an amazing first appointment with Orla and within 3 appointments she had me diagnosed, on supplements to support me and to boost my immune system, a referral in hand and I was out the door.
Going to her was priceless, and I’d highly recommend you find your ‘Orla’ if you need deeper support. As she said ‘I’m not in ‘standard land’, you need your GP for that – ok?’
Yep, I understood.
My Lung Specialist
She gave me a referral to a Lung Specialist, but because of Covid I had to do a Telehealth call with him. His instructions were clear:
- Don’t get sick and if you do, and you require antibiotics, take them straight away. He sent me a script for antibiotics which I never filled, because I never needed to fill it.
- Keep doing exercise because that helps bring up the mucus. Easy done.
- Keep eating well, because that helps your immune system.
- See a physiotherapist who can teach you how to bring up the mucus. I still haven’t done that.
- Come and see me when things open up after covid.
I went to see him, physically, in August 2020. Honestly, I felt like I’d have a way forward after our appointment. I didn’t and I was really disappointed. To me it was almost a complete waste of time.
The best thing about my appointment was having a breath and fitness test before I saw the specialist. This test went really well and the one thing I got out of it was that I had a low blood oxygen level at about the 1 minute mark when I did the fitness test.
I’d always called this my sticking point, and that’s when my brain kicks in to keep going. Mindset is everything.
Normally, according to the guy running the test, they’d stop the test when blood oxygen levels drop like mine, but he could see I was ok so he just kept monitoring me. I knew how far I had to go on the test to match it with previous patients aka contestants, I asked, and whilst I was a bit short on their best, I was up there.
Then I had to wait for the specialist appointment, so I left and had some lunch at the cafe. The specialist just wanted me to keep doing what I was doing and he’d see me again in 12 months. In effect, monitoring me.
I was waiting for him to give me some magic advice/recommendation/pill etc. to help clear this all up, but he didn’t and I knew I didn’t need a specialist to do monitor me. I sat in the appointment knowing that I’d never go back, we were moving to Hervey Bay after all, but there was no point.
To me what he was saying was ‘you’re doing ok, sure it could be better but I can’t recommend anything that will help you get better so let’s just make sure you don’t go down hill.’ I wanted to get better, I wasn’t interested in the status quo.
My Natural Next Steps
In 2022, I started working with my new GP on my lungs, in amongst the work I was doing with my naturopath. I emailed Orla to get the report she received from my lung specialist and it reaffirmed my decision not to go back to that specialist.
The specialist report included what they’d shared with me, also possible conditions I could have like cystic fibrosis, significant scoliosis and that bronchiectasis was a ‘permanent incurable condition’. Tell me I’m in denial, but I don’t have cystic fibrosis or significant scoliosis, nor do I believe that bronchiectasis is a permanent incurable condition. My body has created this to look after me in some way, so if I can change the conditions of my body, then I can change what it creates.
Going forward, I focused on movement, rest and food. I watched when my cough would come up – when I ate my salads at lunch time, when I ate ice cream, when I ate microwave popcorn, but not the first time, if I had it over consecutive days then it would flare, so I took those things out, or in the case of my salads – tweaked things, and watched what happened.
Rest was easy for me, so if I felt tired I started to take afternoon naps, without feeling guilty.
My cough was always worse in the morning and at night, so I started cutting back on my early morning calls, preferring to have time with my family, breakfast with Chris, getting Teddy ready for school etc. before have time for myself, then coaching and podcasting. This allowed me to set the tone for my day and learn to put myself first.
I would walk and do sprints in the morning, just going for 30 minutes 3 to 5 times a week, depending on what was happening. I also played netball on a Saturday, the heat was exhausting enough as I was used to playing in the Canberra cold, not 30 degrees in the blazing sun.
I’d been working with my Nutritionist regarding foods to increase energy during my games. Simply adding in a banana before a game was enough. I also drank poweraid to help with energy and aid recovery but I’d always cough up mucus after a game.
Now exercise is good for bringing mucus up, but I didn’t have the same result from my running and sprint sessions. They weren’t as long as a netball game, but I found it odd.
In November 2022, I went to the Pan Pacific Games to play netball. I was worried about my fitness and my lungs, as I’d be playing more than 10 games in 6 days. I, of course, didn’t just play for my team but I filled in for another team, which meant I’d play possibly an extra 3 games, I ended up playing 4 additional games, however, I was also working whilst I was away so I missed about 4 games, so things evened out.
My decisions aside, the week went better than I expected and whilst I coughed in the morning, it wasn’t as bad as it was at home. I initially put it down to not drinking Poweraid, and thinking the issue was with the sugar in the drink, not the drink itself. But in 2023, while working with my Chinese Acupuncturist and Herbalist, it could have had more to do with the temperature of the drink, as I was drinking the Poweraid when it was icy cold.
I love drinking cold water, it cools my body down and refreshes me, but I’d been wondering if it was serving my body any more. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, drinking ice cold water means I’d effectively been putting out my ‘digestive fire’ and we want to be stoking that fire, not dousing it. Now this also depends on your constitution and remember everyone’s unique so what works for me, won’t necessarily work for you. Seek the support that you need and that will serve you the best.
Whilst I didn’t know it at the time, a change I made in 2023, drinking room temperature water and having warming foods at lunch time, made a huge difference to the amount of mucus I was bringing up. Also, because my body wasn’t always trying to heal and expel the mucus, my energy levels rose.
My lungs have and continue to be a journey, and I’m learning all the time which is awesome, but I hope this demonstrates to you that when we create awareness, pay attention, experiment and make shifts, the thing we’re focusing on change too.
Note: I have also been doing lots of spiritual work and in 2023 committed to a daily practice of meditation, a specific one to support my lungs. What I know to be true is that everything is connected, so when I make a shift in one area of my life it affects another area of my life. Therefore, everything I’m doing benefits or impacts my lungs in some way, and it’s awareness that’s key to helping them thrive.
Also, I had a CT scan in 2023, which I was able to compare to 2022 and it said ‘overall there has been a significant reduction in the amount of consolidation present since the previous study in 2022.’ To me this meant, I haven’t healed my lungs, but I’m on the right track.
My next step
It’s time for more bloods, it’s time to check in with my iron levels and how things are going. My energy levels are good, I’m active and healing and I’m starting to think about thriving and how that looks for me, how would that look for you?
Share with me
Are you going on your own journey in 2022? Then tag me and use #project22 so we can connect xo
Everything shared in this post and across my website is my story and recollection of conversation and events. They are in no way medical or mental health advice, prescription or diagnosis. Should you be interested in what I’m sharing and what this could mean in your life, then I’d encourage you to engage with the relevant health professionals or if you need support please seek out the health professionals that can support you.
In relation to my podcast, the information shared is mine or my guests. Again it is not medical or mental health advice, prescription or diagnosis. If you need support, please seek out relevant medical professionals.