Friday, 9 August 2013

Smoking, Exercise and Lung Function

I had my check-up with the thoracic physician yesterday.
For a quick refresher: Three months ago, just a week after my 20th birthday, I was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Bronchiolitis. At that point, I was told I had to quit smoking, that any irritants would worsen my condition. My lungs functioned at around 30% when I was admitted to hospital, and my oxygen saturation would dip to dangerous levels. Basically, at the grand old age of 20, I've caused permanent damage to my lungs from smoking.

So, I had my second check-up yesterday. We sit down in his office. My leg swings violently, my hands clawing at each other, staring at the floor with my eyes occasionally darting up to meet his.
"How've things been going?"
I mumble "I haven't quit smoking yet, but I've been cutting back. I'm down to about half a gram of weed a day,"
"...though my cigarettes have gone up to 30-40 a day."
"Why'd you do that?"
As if it was a conscious decision. Maybe because I've cut back on the green stuff so dramatically?

"Have you been exercising? Going for walks?"
Immense guilt hits. ""
"Not leaving the house much?"
*shakes head*
"Do you have an exercise bike at home? A treadmill?"
"Do you use it?"
Cringe. "Not at the moment."
"Why not?"
"It's just... Umm... It's not..."
I decide to not go there, and fall into a silence.

"What does your GP say about the smoking?"
"We don't really talk about it that much."
"How often do you see her?"
"It's not really regular... Maybe every few weeks."
"Are you seeing anyone else?"
I know he means psychiatrists. He thinks I need lorazepam for my anxiety, though my GP won't prescribe it. 
"I see a dietician once a week."
"And how're things going with your weight?"
"'s okay, evening out, staying the same."
At my last check-up, his technician weighed me on the spot. Thankfully they didn't this time, and took my word for it.

After a physical check over, he tells me my lungs are functioning at about 70%, which is a slight improvement on my last check-up, though obviously much better than 30% during the flare-up. My bronchioles have also improved, though they're still very narrowed. Apparently this is as good as it'll get, and now it's up to me to slow further damage. Keep on cutting back, work towards quitting. He reminds me that there is no better or worse with tobacco and marijuana, that they're just as damaging as each other. He says I've done well, to keep up the good work, and I take a sigh of relief. 

The first thing I say to mum when we leave is "Guess whose fat ass needs to get back on the elliptical?"
Ugh. I'm going to ask the dietician about it next week, and see what she has to say about it. She says I need to be resting, conserving energy, sitting down as much as possible and asking mum to get my coffees for me. He says I should be exercising, going for walks, moving around as much as possible. The guilt is massive. I know it's about making breathing easier, and nothing else, but it won't stay that way. There's no such thing as 'go for a half hour walk, three times a week' in my mind. It's all or nothing, and when I start I can't stop until I've burnt every calorie that enters my body.

My next check-up is in three months, and hopefully by then I'll have mustered up the motivation to quit smoking. For now though, it's just about making it through each day.
One thing at a time. 



  1. Hey Bella, it sounds like your appointment was a bit stressful. I guess your physician doesn't understand that it's not as simple as just eating more to make up for the calories you burn on the elliptical. I hope you work it out sweetie, and quit smoking!!
    Take care <3
    Alice xx

  2. i think the scariest thing that could be wrong with someone is their lungs. the feeling of suffocation is terrible. i'm thinking your thoracic physician is just hoping you exercise your lungs. (you're not fat; you're absolutely lovely.) but i think that's a good plan for now, to wait and see what your dietitian says. i understand that all or nothing feeling. it can be overwhelming. *hughug* hang in there, bella. you'll be alright xx

  3. Hey Bella,
    I'm so glad your lung function is back up to 70%. It's not great but it's so much better than only 30%. I'd be worried about the'll burn off so many calories which would mean you'd have to increase your intake to way more than 1000 calories which I know you'd find so stressful. It's a bit of a catch 22 situation isn't it...I think asking your dietitian is the best bet, she what advice she can give you. Is there no other way you can exercise your lungs, say on a nebuliser or something like that?

    Thinking of you! Sending big hugs xxxx

  4. Hello sweetheart, I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you, lots, and lots :) I'm glad your lungs are slightly better and hope they carry on to improve sweetheart, hope the rest of your week hasn't been as stressful?
    Love xx

  5. You really shouldn't feel guilty Bel. He's asking you to get some exercise in because it's good for pulmonary function. Your heart gets to pumping, blood flowing, get those lungs in shape. Your dietician is asking you not to move a lot because you don't eat enough. It just comes down to you eating more. I know that's a scary concept but you're destroying yourself. I know you know that and I know you feel like you're under a rock. There's just no reason to think you're fat and think that he thinks you're fat. It's for your pulmonary health. You just worry me hun. I'm giving you a huge hug, Willow tree big :), and I love you.

  6. Telling you to exercise seems like it would be really triggering. I guess it really comes down to what you (not Ed but YOU) think is best to help you recover. Do you have a problem with overexercising? If so, be careful. It would suck to work on getting better in one area only to hurt yourself in another.

  7. I'm glad he didn't berate you about smoking... thank god he focused on the progress, not the fact that you haven't completely quit.

    Seems like he's kind of a jerk for telling you to exercise though.. I mean, surely even a professional can see that that's the last thing you need right now?


  8. I need to quit smoking too :/ It's like this permanent cloud of guilt that hangs over my head. That doctor sounds like a bit of a twat to be honest, and triggering to boot, but I know he was probably just trying to get you to 'exercise' your lungs more. Thank you for the wonderful comments on my blog, I know I haven't been a great commenter in return but I really appreciate your insight :)
    All my love,

  9. What kind of retarded doctor tells someone with anorexia to exercise?? He probably wants you to improve your heart condition, so don't feel so bad about it Bella <3
    I'm not a smoker, but I know what it's like to get addicted to something (since I'm a food :P), and it's awfully hard to get out of it once you start doing it.
    Just be strong, and look after yourself.
    Big hugs for you xx <3

  10. It really sucks when your doctors have different opinions of what you should do. I hope that you can find some sort of happy medium. <3