Disabled or not?

A person with a disability is defined as: A person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or A person with a record of such a physical or mental impairment; or A person who is regarded as having such an impairment. – NW ADA Center

“Disabled” is still a term I wrestle with. I have a disabled parking permit because I use a cane to walk and often can’t walk more than 200 feet. I use a mobility scooter at big box stores or events. But I’m not considered disabled by the US Social Security Administration, because I can do work that I did before (software testing, which physically means “park self in front of computer”) (just not at the pace and hours expected by Amazon of a senior person) (which really the US tech industry assumption that everyone has 60 to 80 hours a week to dedicate to work is a serious problem that I’m pretty sick of, and has me considering other, part-time options).

So yeah, I’m disabled, but I’m not.

I looked up the Social Security info because my primary care ARNP suggested it.  I still don’t think I would probably qualify – from what I’ve heard, it’s a pretty onerous process.


Cathy yelling “ACK!” Cartoon by Cathy Guisewite

In the mean time, I went from feeling a bit chuffed that I handled the walking at the primary care office fine while wearing a multilayer cloth mask, to … having an asthma attack walking down the hallway at another appointment in the hospital medical offices.

(I am a grownup, so I didn’t actually YELL “ACK!” out loud. Just, you know, THOUGHT IT really loud.)

I did take a minute away from other people to use my inhaler, which of course required removing my mask. But the inhaler helped my lungs relax.  I continued walking.  Slowly.

One step forward, one step back.  Walking is aerobic and improves my blood pressure; aerobic exercise is an asthma trigger. Strength training reduces/removes knee pain; strength training can be boring.

That’s kind of life, I know.


Medical Tests of the Itchy Sort

In May 2018 I was short of breath. I thought I might have pneumonia.  Turned out they  found a pulmonary embolism and I spent 4 days in ICU. I was finally discharged to go home and rest. This also came shortly after a kidney stone and high blood pressure diagnosis, and I was really, really, tired.

But my lung capacity, while better than with the PE, still sucks. “It takes time to recover from a PE”.  Uh-huh. Also I was busy trying to hit deadlines at work, despite being tired all the time, and I only had so much time and energy to deal with crap. So I didn’t push to hard on why my lung capacity is still smaller than normal.

It’s over a year later. I still get short of breath trying to walk any distance. Slowing down helps but is frustratingly slow. So this week I’m going to the Pulmonary Clinic for lung capacity testing!  Good!  And to find out my unmedicated state, I’m not taking asthma meds and anthistamines for a day beforehand!


“You can use a rescue inhaler like albuterol if needed up to 4 hours before the appointment.”

Uh, right.

What really worries me is that I’ll end up itching. I did confirm I can use topical meds, like hydrocortisone cream or antihistamine eyedrops.  I may be focusing on itching to avoid thinking about shortness of breath.  But still. No Zyrtec. Eek. 

Wheezing Around the Block

One of the recent rants I moderated out of the comments included something* about how “wheezing around the block doesn’t count as exercise.”

Wheezing is a symptom of asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, pneumonia, and other illness. Deciding that wheezing is only due to weight and only will be treated by weight loss is DANGEROUS.

I do wheeze. I have asthma. Now that  it is properly treated I can exercise without wheezing. My treatment plan is greatly helped by insurance to cover the not-available-in-generic Advair & other meds. One of my asthma triggers is exercise itself. This means I need to medicate pre-exercise. I’m also affected by things like air pollution and pollen.

If you’re fat and wheezing while walking around the block, you may need to see a doctor about your wheezing. It’s not necessarily “just being fat.” Waiting til you’re thin? A, may not help, and B, YOU COULD DIE in the meantime.

The fat haters of the world would have you believe you only wheeze if you’re fat and should lose weight to cure it. The fat accepters think that if you’re sick, you should be treated for that without having to lose weight first. I’m on the fat accepting side.

*Paraphrased to remove profanity & improve readability.

Saturday Ramblings

1am is still Saturday if you haven’t gone to bed yet, right?

Note to self: The expensive twice-daily asthma med works best if the evening dose is 12 hours after the morning dose, not 18 or 20. You carry it with you. Set an alarm on your phone & use it. Don’t just turn it off.

Kath posted about a current fat acceptance tag on twitter, if you haven’t seen it already. Also the HAES blog has a piece on activist burnout.

I started watching the first season of Mad Men on Netflix.  Is it weird that I’m describing it as “a grown-up Bewitched”?

Histamines in Food

A bit of background:

An allergen is something that triggers an allergy. When a person with allergic rhinitis breathes in an allergen such as pollen or dust, the body releases chemicals, including histamine. 

Histamine […] causes dilatation of the blood vessels (flushing, rash, itching) and increased mucus production (runny nose, productive cough), and bronchoconstriction (wheezing, cough). Because histamine is contained in almost all body tissues, […] it is able to cause a wide variety of symptoms.

So, allergies release histamines, and histamines causes the actual symptoms.

Well, I knew that it’s possible to be allergic to food.  I even knew that if you’re allergic to sulfites you should avoid wine.  But somehow I’d missed that some foods naturally contain … histamine.

There are many foods that contain histamine or cause the body to release histamine when ingested. These types of reactions are food intolerances, and are different from food allergy in that the immune system is not involved in the reaction. The symptoms, however, can be the same as a food allergy.

This also includes beer, wine and liquor.

The basic takeaway seems to be:  IF you have allergies, and your allergies are getting on your case? You might want to avoid food and drink with natural histamines.  There’s a long list here.  A couple studies linking wine (in particular) with more symptoms in allergy sufferers were discussed here.

(Those who do not have allergies are welcome to pour a glass of wine and rejoice in the comments.  Those with allergies, feel free to share other coping methods.)

I’m a grownup, right?

Forty-seven years old.

Working in software (not rocket science, but involves brains) over 20 years.

Employed and promoted by a company that prides itself on “hiring and promoting the best.”

Have been taking various meds for allergies for over 30 years.

….so why did I forget the Flonase again???

(I’m sure it has nothing to do with flonase being a nose spray, which I inhale better after my shower, vs the other morning meds which I have trained myself to take right after getting up. Nope. :P )

Allergist update

Image from the Rudd Center Image Gallery

Image from the Rudd Center Image Gallery

Had a follow-up appointment with the allergist last week.

It was nice to confirm that the new meds and cleaning regimen not only feels good for me, I did better on the lung capacity test this time than on my first visit.

It was nice to confirm that needing to use albuterol prior to aerobic exercise is expected (exercise is an asthma trigger, especially if combined with cold air).  Albuterol is also my “rescue” med, which I use when my asthma symptoms worsen.  I haven’t been needing to use it as a rescue med for weeks, which is great.

I also agreed to start immunotherapy shots for my allergic triggers (dust mites, grass, pet dander).  It’ll take a few years, but hopefully it will reduce my allergic triggers in the long term.

What I do with asthma


  • Advair inhaler, twice daily.
  • Spirivia inhaler, once daily.
  • Flonase nose spray, once daily.
  • Singulair & antihistamine, once daily.
  • Rescue inhaler, 2 puffs before exercise or as needed.
  • Vacuum several times a week.
  • Weekly wipe down surfaces in bedroom.
  • Weekly wash sheets, comforter cover and pillowcases in hot water to kill dust mites. (Dust mites is a major allergy for me – bigger reaction on a scratch test than the straight histamine.)
  • Weekly spin comforter and mattress cover in hot dryer to kill dust mites.
  • Mattress cover is washed monthly; pillows & mattress have dust mite proof covers.

….and we also dust more often in other rooms, but the bedroom gets the most attention since I am physically there more than anywhere else.

But of course, “choosing” to be fat shows I hate the idea of improving my quality of life & I want to be sick.

Operation (de-)Dust Mite a Success

The quest to cut down dust mites in our bedroom was a success.  I woke up Monday morning without a headache and without needing to blow my nose.  I hadn’t noticed these symptoms much until they were gone, but they were.  Even better, I seemed better able to handle other asthma triggers the rest of the day.  It was even better than the additional meds (Flonase and Spiriva) had been alone.

Today I again washed the bedclothes in hot water.  I didn’t wash the comforter, but it did get a spin in the max-heat dryer, which kills dust mites as well.  Yesterday I did more thorough cleaning in the living room than I had in months.

Amazing how breathing better makes all the difference.

Operation de-Dust Mite

In October I noticed I was having more anxiety about the whole “going to the doctor” thing.  I ended up calling the asthma specialist I’d been referred to at least six months previously and going in on Monday.

This was stressful in many ways. I’m freak-folks-the-hell-out fat.  I’ve got the whole mental “You mean it’s asthma, not just that I’m fat and out of shape?” thing going. There’s getting through my first Thanksgiving without my father.  There’s that fall is the most stressful time of year at work.

But I went.  Some of it was new to me, such as being handed a tissue with a length of plastic wrap on top and being asked to blow my nose.  (Ruled out infections.)  Also a lung function test, where I breathed out, in, and out through a measuring device.  As weight can factor into dosing of asthma meds, I did get on the nifty digital scale .. which displayed the ever-useful “ERR”.  Oy.  I did tell the nurse my weight, and she made no comment.  Blood pressure was fine, both in terms of my specific measurement, and that the room I was in had the proper-sized cuff and the tech taking my blood pressure used the large cuff without me needing to request it.  I met with the doc to discuss my history and current symptoms.  We agreed to doing some skin tests to confirm and/or rule out current allergies.  My biggest responses were to dust mites, grasses, and dog dander.  Hence Operation de-Dust Mite, which included encasing our king-sized mattress in a “protector” to keep the dust mites inside it.

Side note: wrestling a king-sized mattress into a giant zippered pillowcase?   Hilarious.  Ended up putting the mattress on its side, propped against the headboard, to get the thing on.

What struck me the most, though, was that the doctor did not blame anything on my weight.  No question that exercise is an asthma trigger for me.  Not “Are you sure you’re just not used to exercise?”  Doc accepted that it’s a trigger, saying something like, “Smoke, exercise, going out in the cold, those are very common.”    I half expected to hear “Exercise will help improve your lung capacity” but there was no mention of exercise or weight loss.  Treatment plan added a few new meds to better control my asthma and reducing overall exposure to allergens, especially in our bedroom.

I’m glad it was a good experience.  I am less thrilled that it was a surprise and not business as usual for me.

Five Things Makes a Post

  1. New job! I have a new job.  The place I was temping hired me in late December.  I’m not doing exactly the same job, which is both “new and scary” and “cool and interesting”.   It’s also been interesting to note that the things I was looking forward to ending with the contract (the commute, say) are now things I’m stuck with, and the things I was thinking I’d miss (the walkability of the neighborhood) are now things I get to enjoy longer.
  2. According to the New York Times, my household is in the top 48% for the Seattle-Everett area this year (based on my unemployment for the first 3 months + contract for 8.5 months + signing bonus + hubby’s temp gig.)
  3. Asthma has been kicking my butt lately.  My nurse practitioner upped my dose of Advair and OMG I had so! much! energy!  this! week!   I have been enjoying it but also crashing harder at the end of the day.
  4. A coworker was floored that I am able to pick up my father’s wheelchair and load it into my car.  I pointed out that once I remove the back and seat, it collapses into a big flatish bundle.  “But isn’t it heavy?”  About 40lbs, really … which doesn’t seem all that much to me.  So I guess the weightlifting is doing me good.
  5. I have been reading more about caregiver stress and considering support groups.  I feel a bit strange about doing it, since I’m not doing the daily hands-on care.  But I am taking him to doctor visits, making medical decisions, getting his mail, managing his money, and being a supportive daughter.

Bonus: The new blog banner is a chocolate doughnut with chocolate frosting and Sounders green and blue sprinkles.  These are sold by http://www.toppotdoughnuts.com/ at Seattle Sounders games.

Asthma Not-Fun

I would like to realize I’m wheezing before someone stops me at work and asks, with a look of deep concern, “Are you alright?”


It’s bad enough to have someone ask me, with a look of deep concern, “Are you alright?” while I’m setting up mics and speakers for a concert.  Or walking around a con.  Or walking at a park.

It’s worse at work.

Maybe I’ve just spent too many years assuming I’m fat and out of shape and thus symptoms short of “chest pain” feel normal to me.  Maybe I need to get a peak flow meter or start a symptoms diary.

But as much as I am really tired of those looks of deep concern, I am also really tired of  walking around and suddenly not being able to breathe.

Proper Treatment

Knowing intellectually that people can die of asthma is a bit scary.  Reading that a friend of a friend died of an asthma attack is another.

Death from asthma is a relatively uncommon event, and most asthma deaths are preventable. It is very rare for a person who is receiving proper treatment to die of asthma.

However, even when it is not life threatening, asthma can be debilitating and frightening. Asthma that is not properly controlled can interfere with school and work, as well as daily activities.
— From “Asthma in Adults” at the University of Maryland Medical Center

Of course, proper treatment is often dependent on affordable medical care.   I carry with me an albuterol inhaler and antihistamines to deal with allergic asthma.  Not everyone can afford them.

Also: some don’t believe they have asthma.  For decades I didn’t believe I had asthma, despite having allergies, because I was fat — I was supposed to breathe hard, right?  Shortness of breath means “obese”, right?  Wrong.   (Misdiagnosis occurs, too.) But getting properly diagnosed means medical practitioners need to look at the symptoms and not the body weight — and having affordable practitioners and treatments available in the first place.

I live in a country with treatments available, and they’re affordable for me because I have a computer science degree.  Other people aren’t so lucky.

Some things I’m glad about today

1)  Riding the bus to my new job means I’m walking daily again, at least on weekdays. Funny how walking even a 1/2 mile or so every day can feel good, even if it’s spread throughout the day.

2)  Yes, I have a temp gig.   At the moment it’s a better fit than the old place.

3) The commute is a short bus ride and a longer bus ride – if I make connections badly it can take 90 minutes or more.  I am getting better at making connections, though, and the long bus route is conducive to reading books or surfing the net (many of the buses have wifi).  De-stressing on the way home is a good thing.

4) The trees are blooming, but my meds are keeping my asthma largely under control.

5) From s. e. smith’s thought-provoking post on what our culture means by  “taking care of yourself“:

They don’t care about my health. They don’t care whether I am happy, whether I enjoy my body, whether I like moving and living in my body. They care that they don’t like looking at me and wish that my body would go away, would shrink, would dwindle away so that it will no longer offend their eyes. This is what people mean when they ask me if I’m ‘taking care of myself,’ when they give me a sidelong glance while I eat a doughnut, when they scrutinise me if I start to wheeze on a hike, because of course, I must be wheezing because I am fat and out of shape, not because I have asthma.

6) Hugs, kisses, and dinner from the man of the house.  :)

Feeling Like A “Bad” Fatty

I haven’t been exercising.  I spent most of the weekend sitting or laying down. Sometimes I’d be breathing hard from the effort of sitting (compared to laying down).  Sunday I was so exhausted I literally laid down and cried.

I’ve got a cold, which does not combine well with asthma.  Plus I was helping run a small con, which meant quite a bit of adrenalin and the feeling that I “should” be walking around, checking in with our guests, seeing if other volunteers need help, and generally doing things.

You know the sort of “sick” where you feel fine as long as you don’t actually try to do things?  Yeah, that was me, most of the weekend — at least, once I had enough pills / etc that I could breathe regularly and stop coughing.

Yes, I took my preventative meds.  I also took time-release guaifenesin, supplemental antihistamines, and used my albuterol inhaler a lot.  I helped coordinate volunteers, I ran the tech equipment that the other volunteers don’t know or aren’t as skilled with, I helped keep guests organized.  I’m told a lot of folks didn’t realize I was sick.

And yet I feel I was a “bad fatty” because I spent a lot of time sitting.  Because I collapsed with my computer Monday instead of helping carry a bunch of equipment.  Because I didn’t get some borrowed equipment returned until Tuesday.  Because I should be performing feats of strength to prove I have worth, or that I’m capable despite being fat, or something.   Because only bad fats sit around all the time.

The idea that I should have to “prove” my body is okay is one I’d like to unlearn. My brain knows that attitude is insane.  Unfortunately I’m not there yet, and it bugs me.

Update: I did intend this post to be about “Gee, even though I’m legitimately sick, I keep feeling guilty for not doing enough and wondering if people think badly of me because I’m fat.  That’s screwed up.”   Sorry if that didn’t come through.

You Know You Have Dust/Pollen/etc Allergies When…

…you feel like you might be getting a cold (congestion, headachy, coughing, tired).  Do you drink tea and put your feet up?  No, you spend Sunday dusting and vacuuming the bedroom, changing the sheets and mattress cover, running the pillows and comforter through the hottest dryer setting to kill dust mites, washing your CPAP mask and hose, swapping in a clean CPAP filter, and otherwise doing your best to minimize allergens.  Oh, and some cleaning in the rest of the house (vacuuming, dusting, etc).

Because if it’s allergies, and not a cold?  This may alleviate (or at least help) the problem.

And if it’s a cold, and not allergies?  Doing allergen-patrol while you still feel up to it will help keep the cold from being compounded by allergies later.

Thankful Thursday

[a not-always-weekly exercise in gratitude]

The man of the house baked a chicken with some rosemary this evening.  He accompanied it with broccoli with cheese sauce,  green beans steamed with red potatoes, corn cooked with onions, cold sliced beets, and French bread.   As we were eating he said, “So did I make the Thankful Thursday this week?”

So. Um. Today I’m thankful for:

  1. The man of the house (and not just for cooking dinner!)
  2. The guest room TV is now connected to the VCR for using ancient aerobics tapes, and we cleaned, dusted, and vacuumed in there over the weekend so it doesn’t irritate my allergies to be in there.
  3. This positive article on Health At Every Size.
  4. Having my asthma under better control.  I’m not only breathing (and feeling!)  better, I’m also getting sick a lot less.  I think some of those cold/flu “things” I would perennially have were asthma/allergies (and/or the asthma made me more susceptible to having them).
  5. New Alexander James Adams album to preorder.  :)

This isn’t all that’s going on this week by any means.  I just find it helpful to focus on the positive sometimes.