a woman holds her throat as she gasps for air, having an exacerbation

Am I Having an Exacerbation or Has My Lung Function Declined?

Oh my, this last month has been very stressful. My oxygen has been dropping and my heart rate has been skyrocketing. When I get up to do anything, my oxygen is dropping into the low 80’s. This is unusual for me. The only time it usually drops that low is if I have been walking around without my oxygen to the bathroom, etc. or if I am doing a more strenuous workout than usual.

Perspective

I have been so fortunate over these last eleven years not to lose any lung function but to feel like this has been devastating. I do have to remind myself that I have had way more years on these bad lungs than I thought I would.

When I first started writing these articles for COPD.net this February, I was in such a good place. I was sharing my journey with everyone and staying so positive about everything, and being able to share my articles with you all. I have been eating healthy and exercising to better my health and now I can barely walk to the bathroom without my oxygen dropping.

My worries

Now, being so short of breath again and finding out that my CT Scan is worse than it was in January has been very discouraging. I’m hoping this is just an exacerbation but trying to prepare myself if there is no coming back from this. I know that I will get over this “poor me” moment, I always do. It will just take some time. I feel like I’m back feeling the way I felt when I was first diagnosed.

I feel like I’m learning everything new again - asking questions and trying to keep my spirits up while not bringing my family down. I don’t want them to worry about me. I think that's what bothers me most. Them worrying about me.

Oxygen numbers

I have been to my pulmonologist and he did a six-minute walk test. You won’t believe it, it was the best six-minute walk I have ever done. My oxygen stayed at 96 the whole time. I have never done that before. The nurse was looking at me like 'Yeah right, your oxygen is dropping!' I guess I was just having a good moment because at home later that day my oxygen was dropping to 85 while walking to the bathroom with oxygen on (yes, I have checked my machine, hoses, etc. for any problems). I have 3 different pulse oximeters and they were all reading the same.

Tests and scans

He also sent me to get a CT scan and an echocardiogram. The echocardiogram came back fine and the CT came back worse than my previous one in January (as far as the emphysema in the right lung). But everything else was the same. No new nodules and the ones I do have haven't grown any bigger. I have yet to have a PFT done this year. Because of covid, I haven't had one since November of 2019. I’m still waiting on that to see if my numbers have declined as well. I’m anxious to see what that will say.

I am not alone

Does anyone else feel this way when you start to decline? I know that I am not alone in this and would love to hear your thoughts. I think just writing this and getting it off my chest has already helped. I feel much better than I did yesterday when I came to edit this article.

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