Once upon a time…part 2

I should have said right from the beginning, this blog is primarily about my health, beginning with a medical history – with lots of context. I don’t plan on going too much in to the other areas of my life where my health is not front and centre of mind. This is my attempt to try to understand what has happened, how my health has evolved over the years. Think of this blog as a big puzzle and each blog entry a puzzle piece. I want to reach out, to share, to find understanding with others. Maybe there is something in front of my nose that I have missed, a key piece of the puzzle. Maybe there are others out there who if they read my blog would say ‘me too!’. By sharing my experiences in this blog I hope to help with the understanding of LAM and it is also a way of diminishing some of the isolation and hopelessness I sometimes feel.

**

Growing up, my parents enthusiastically showed my siblings and I how to appreciate the natural world, fall in love with the outdoors and the benefits of physical exercise. Regular outdoor outings often involved the whole family going camping, bike riding, hiking, skiing and swimming.

As a young family, my siblings and I were regularly enrolled in swimming lessons year-round, advancing our way through the coloured levels, receiving a badge that we could sew on to a hat or blanket – red, white, blue, bronze and silver cross. I can’t remember where all my badges ended up. I do however remember and wanted to share with you some flashes of happy times and delicious physical sensations;

  • After a swimming lesson, walking to the parked car during the frigid winter months, liking how my damp hair froze and crunched between my fingers
  • Family outings in the summer to the huge outdoor public pools in Ontario, picnic lunches and the smell of sunscreen swirling in the humid air
  • The initial adjustment my skin went through when I first slid in to the pool, the absolute silence as I tipped my head and ears back in to the water (unless the pool had submerged, waterproof speakers😊)
  • That all over body tired I would get, limbs heavy and relaxed after doing laps for a good hour in the pool, man I slept well those nights!
  • Family swims on the weekends at our local public pool, my dad patiently trying to help me on my weak point in swimming class, diving. How he would teach me how to dive off the edge of the pool (I’m still afraid of heights, and standing on a chair is still way too far from the ground for me…but thank you dad)

I loved those times.

As my siblings and I moved into the teen years, we became more independent, hanging out with friends and not as interested in going together to the pool.

One winter evening after we had moved out east, shortly after I stared university, mom and I were home alone. She turned to me while on the couch together watching TV and said, ‘lets go for a swim’ – I was game.

I looked forward to spending some girl time with mom and thought I would enjoy the warmth that the pool would offer after a chilly, snow-filled day. We chose a public indoor pool nearby that had an open evening swim; half of the pool was roped off for lanes and the other side was open for those who just wanted to paddle.

It had been a while since I had last made the effort to swim but I found my bathing suit and we headed out. I looked forward to getting back in the water and I thought winter would be a good time to start swimming regularly again. I started in the shallow end of the pool, and slowly lowered my body down in to the water to allow my body temperature to adjust before I started to swim. My chest felt tight – really tight. I could feel the pressure of the water pushing on my ribs. I thought it was probably my body adjusting to the warm humidity of the pool after the dry, winter air.

I did only a few meters of the front crawl and had to stop because I had to cough. I hadn’t inhaled any water – what was going on? I held on to the side of the pool while I waited for the coughing fit to stop.

It didn’t.

It was a dry hacking irritation deep in my throat – my cough still wasn’t stopping.

As I continued to cough I pulled myself out of the water and walked to the women’s change room. I stood in front of the sink and mirror and continued to cough, bent over, hanging on the edge of the counter, hacking until I gagged. A bit of blood came up and I spit it out and in to the sink. Alarmed, I drank some water from the tap.

A ball of fear started in the pit of my stomach when I saw the blood – I washed it down the sink and tried harder to get my cough under control. The cough began to subside as I continued to sip water from the sink tap, bringing it to my mouth in little sips from my cupped hand.

I was drained, tired, and more than a bit confused.  I was also scared.

When my cough stopped I easily walked out to the pool area but instead of getting in again, I walked to the edge of the pool to get my mom and told her what had happened. I told her that I was too tired to swim and we cut the swim short. I think I remember that we both thought that I probably had a virus and coughed so hard that I irritated my throat until the tissues bled a bit.

The cough and the blood never came back but I didn’t really want to go swimming again that winter. University and the habits of student life took over, the seasons changed and my health continued to be good. I continued with my life as a normal young adult until a few years later when on a sunny summer day, I found myself alone in a hospital isolation unit far away from family in Lethbridge, Alberta.

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