Learning To Love My Lungs

Dear Reader: 

It’s September! Where did summer go? I’ve had a really lazy couple of months and now it feels good to be blogging again. I want to give you an update on my lung condition and on my life in general. What I have to say about managing my lung disease should be helpful to others, regardless of the health issues involved. Turns out I know quite a bit about dealing with illness: I’d just never applied it to myself.  

beautiful-sailing-boat-masts_1122-603Kingston’s a wonderful city, especially in the summer. From my apartment I watch the sail boat races and the children’s sailing classes.  The yacht club is my next-door neighbour, so I joined as a social member. It’s my “cottage in the city.” Somebody else does all the work. I get to swim, sit down for meals and enjoy the sights. Now, that’s my sort of cottage.  

Along with everything else over the summer, I’ve been neglecting the memoir I’m writing. At this point, I’m attempting to write a synopsis of its contents in the hope of finding the narrative flow. The problem is, the story keeps changing. When I started writing it, I was moving to Kingston with my husband of 54 years. Then I moved out to live on my own, attempting to maintain a civil relationship with him. Alas, this has not worked out and now the tale is one of learning to take care of myself, instead of everyone around me. I hope you’ll hang in there with me and keep on reading my blog. Today it’s about my lung disease.  

I’m always happy to hear from you in the comments section.  

Here’s to being back at work, back at school and back to all we have to be grateful for.  

Best wishes, 

Mary 

MAKING FRIENDS WITH ILL HEALTH 

The bad news

Some weeks ago I received bad news. I’d been diagnosed with COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a lung condition they say won’t go away and will increasingly limit my ability to exert myself. It seems so unfair. Physical fitness, cardiovascular workouts, yoga and walking the dog up steep hills – all of these have been part of my routine for a healthy body. What’s more, I stopped smoking 48 years ago. How could this be happening to me?

Mourning my losses

I got really mad and went through all five stages of mourning until I finally accepted my new reality. At this point, I remembered I knew something about helping troubled parts of the body.

I have some skills

As a yoga teacher and then as a Focusing therapist, I learned many ways of dealing with illness. I just never had to apply this knowledge to myself. Whether it’s a broken leg or a heart condition, there are attitudes and approaches that aid in healing. I know it’s important to work with the injury, not against it.

Relate to the injured part as you would to another person, a person you really care about

On the theory that every cell in your body has intelligence and is paying attention, we need to establish a loving relationship with the troubled part. It’s important to let it know that you appreciate its struggle and will do everything in your power to help. I tell my lungs that I’m terribly sorry they had to take the brunt of the stress I’ve been under for a year and a half as I downsized, sold the house in Toronto, bought a bungalow in Kingston, moved in, struggled to settle into Kingston, all the while dealing with a stressful relationship. Something had to give. My poor lungs must have been the weakest part of the system.

Work with the treatment

Most of us don’t like what the medical profession offers. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to embrace chemotherapy or radiation: yet, having made the decision to accept modern medicine’s help, we need to welcome it. Otherwise we set up a hostile relationship between our bodies and the treatment. For me, it’s the puffer I’ve decided to use each morning. This little instrument crushes a capsule into the white powder I inhale into my lungs. It comes with a warning not to touch the crushed capsule with your bare hands. If, by chance, your skin contacts the powder, you’re to wash your hands immediately. If it would poison my hands, imagine what it does to my tender lungs!

Nevertheless, I know from my teachers along the way that it’s vital to wholeheartedly embrace whatever remedy I’ve accepted from my physicians.

My new routine

In addition to the prescription, I sit down each day to support my lungs. I begin by talking to them, letting them know I’m compassionate with their struggle. Next come the instructions from one of my yoga teachers:

Breathe, she tells me, not just into the diaphragm, but into the pelvic basin. Imagine a series of three more diaphragms pushing down as your breath moves the diaphragm deeper into the abdominal cavity. Breathe deep into the pelvic basin.

Release any tension in the muscles involved in breathing

I always thought my ribcage was there to protect my lungs and heart. Now I’m aware of its role in breathing. Side-stretching addresses all those muscles along the ribcage. In addition to diaphragmatic breathing, I concentrate on widening my chest to release my upper back muscles and open my chest. Massage helps the muscles involved in breathing.

Weight loss

For me, losing weight will help my lungs. If I have less weight to carry around, there will be less demand on my lungs. Weight loss becomes more urgent.

De-stressing

I believe it was prolonged stress that brought this disease to my lungs. That means it’s up to me to do all I can to reduce stress in my life. Yoga classes, my own daily meditation and enough sleep: all of these join in healing the physical body.

Many-pronged healing approach

Since body and mind are inseparable, efforts to heal need to engage both. Embrace whatever medical treatments you’ve decided on and work in  partnership with all your helping agents. I hope this discussion proves useful to you or to someone you know.

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