My asthmatic feline

I’ve heard that pets often take on characteristics of their owners, but I never expected mine to pick up my health issues. She did, though!

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on my couch participating in a conference call for a national team of volunteers I work with at the Sierra Club. I noticed that my cat, Daisy, who was on my lap keeping me company, seemed to be breathing heavily. At one point she jumped down and looked like she was attmepting to bring up a hairball, but failed to do so. When my call ended and she still seemed “off,” Brian and I decided it was best to call the vet.

They said they wanted to evaluate her right away, and although she might not be in immediate danger, we were expecting what was predicted to be a fairly heavy ice storm starting the following morning, so it made all the more sense to make sure we would not be stranded at home if the roads were too bad to travel the next day.

When we arrived they took her in back right away to put her on oxygen, then once they told us she was stable they were able to do a chest x-ray. While they were working on all of this, we sat in a little waiting room with our other cat, Pinto, who had jumped in the carrier and come along, apparently for moral support, or perhaps out of habit since they usually travel together to the vet. I am not accustomed to spending much time in waiting rooms, it’s usually Brian taking me to the doctor. He said he usually has a tv to watch, but we didn’t have such a luxury at this visit.

The chest x-ray was inconclusive, so they asked to keep her overnight. They wanted her to remain on oxygen and wanted a specialist to take a look in the morning. They said it might be asthma, which they would treat with steroids, but could be an infection, which could be worsened by steroids. Now they were speaking my language, that all sounded really familiar! They let us pop back to tell her goodnight… she was in a little clear box that they can control the air in to give her oxygen. (I had been picturing a little hose wrapped around her nostrils like a human, and this made so much more sense!)

Throughout the next day the doctor called me to say what testing they wanted to run… an ultrasound to rule out heart disease, bloodwork to check for infection, a tracheal lavage, which involves anesthesia and shooting saline down her throat to collect cells from her windpipe (suddenly a pulmonary function test doesn’t sound so bad). Each test was more expensive than the last. By the end of the day, they were able to confirm her diagnosis: asthma and chronic bronchitis. “What are the odds?!” I thought. (About 1% of domestic cats have asthma, it turns out.)

It took another day of oxygen, albuterol, and steroids before they let me bring her home. So far she’s been doing great. I’m glad she’s feeling better, and hopeful that giving her pills will eventually get easier!

Daisy resting at home

7 Minutes in Heaven

As usual, winter has been tough for me.  Right around the holidays, when I’m rushing from one event to another while working extra hours (it is the busiest time of year in my line of work, nonprofit fundraising), the weather changes, and that new nip in the air invariably leads to a round of asthmatic bronchitis.  I’ve been fortunate this year to not actually get sick – I only sound like I am.  That deep, deep cough that initially led a stranger to diagnose my disease in a bookstore (that’s a story for another day).

Anyway, I’ve been struggling through on three different inhalers, and for the past month the only exercise I’ve gotten is the walk to and from my car, an occasional flight of stairs at the office if it’s a good day, and a few little stretches while cooking dinner at night.  Today I finally felt up to trying a little more, so when I got home from work I popped in a favorite yoga DVD and selected the shortest sequence it had to offer – a simple seven minute routine.

It was Heaven!  To finally be able to move, stretch, tie my breathing to my movements and feel connected, was amazing. I was able to do it without coughing!

My muscles are crazy tight.  Until the yoga today I hadn’t realized just how much a month of time off and high doses of albuterol had done to my flexibility.  I’ve got a journey ahead of me,  working my muscles back to my normal, and adding back in more exercise as my lungs recover from the bronchitis.  But I’m looking forward to it, and to bringing you along with me for the ride!


Welcome to my blog

This is my first blog post.  I have tbought about starting this blog for years.  After being diagnosed with asthma, I tried finding a support group, people who understood the challenges posed by living with asthma, people who could share advice on how they manage. I still haven’t found quite what I was looking for, but I have learned a lot myself in the meantime, and dedided it is time to share with you all.

I am calling this blog “Asthmatic Athlete,” because I want to highlight that anything is possible, and because I like alliteration.  I’m not an athlete in any professional sense, and don’t have a body that screams ‘athlete,’ but I do enjoy various recreational expercise – running, yoga, walking, hiking, weightlifting, dancing… and I suppose that makes me an athlete!  My plan is to share my journey with asthma with all of you, and hopefully inspire you to be an athlete, or anything else you dream of, even with asthma.

Thanks for joining me!

Asthmatic Athlete

Hi, reader!

My name is Sarah, and I have asthma. I wanted to start this blog to share my experiences living an active life with the disease. I hope to build a community of people who share my desire to live life fully despite having asthma. While we may need to modify activities or take time off sometimes, I believe we can still do whatever we want in this world! This site is created with the intention to educate and inspire.