Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
January 1 2019
This starts with a very distant memory of siting over a heat register in my grandmother’s living room with a towel over my head to catch the fumes from a “vapo-rub / water” solution to soothe my asthma condition. That would have been approximately sixty five years ago, as I can best recollect. Its been a very long path to finding a solution to wheezing, shortness of breath and fatigue. Asthma is a nasty and persistent disease.
On this first day of 2019 I am compelled to start writing about parts of this journey and the last year in particular.
A long stretch of time passed without any major asthma events. Also a length of time sufficient for full denial of the condition to set in. After all, what’s a little wheezing? While I had periodic physicals no real asthma diagnosis was made. No medications were prescribed. Seasonal battles with allergies were just part of life. In my case the asthma was probably no where near as bad as others experience.
March 2004 was a major turning point for how I dealt with asthma. While helping my now wife renovate her home in preparation to be sold I engaged in some carpet and junk removal without any respiratory protection. Old carpets and other materials imbedded with dust, pet dander and likely some mold.
Needless to say the wheezing picked up significantly over the period of the next few days. Then the coughing started along with considerable congestion. Some pretty nasty looking stuff getting coughed up. It didn’t let up. Of course the full “Male Denial Syndrome “ was in full effect. I pretty much refused to believe this was a serious full scale asthma attack well underway and let the condition fester for several days.
An early morning ambulance ride to a local ER and a couple days in Intensive Care brought about a very abrupt wake up call. This point in time is effectively where my asthma “education” began. Secondarily and not knowing it at the time this is also where I started learning about the practices of prescribing pharmaceuticals.
In the hospital and for a short period following the primary medication prescribed was prednisone. Told it was highly effective in getting a major asthma event under control I complied with the instructions for intake. However there were no instructions regarding the longevity of the intake and keep refilling, with the approval of the doctors office. Little did I know about the risks of long term intake of that type of medication. Fortunately I started learning about some of the side effects and dangers from asthma drugs.
From that point in 2004 I remained on several asthma medications to control and prevent major attacks. They were the common inhalers, nebulizer and allergy medications that most asthma sufferers know well. The intake of those medications also triggered the need for additional over the counter medication to assist with their side effects. Headaches and congestion seemed to be the two most frequent issues I was dealing with.
So off I go from 2004 to a year ago, still wheezing and coughing with the headaches and congestion still acting up. A change in doctors resulted in more frequent physicals but also included the ongoing prescription of asthma medications. Seasonal allergies seemed to be the primary triggers for an increase in the asthma symptoms. While the symptoms seemed to be managed there has never been a point where I would have considered my asthma in remission. There were also periodic asthma episodes that seemed to coincide with or were the result of seasonal respiratory viruses picked up while traveling or from contact with large groups of people; malls, social events, etc. Some of these episodes required the return to a short term prescription of prednisone to get it settled down.
January 2 2019
Then a year ago. Today is January 2 2019. On January 4 2018 we were in the middle of an extreme cold snap with temperatures falling either side of zero and a blizzard hit. The night of January 4th I went out to start dealing with snow removal with extreme cold, very high winds and heavy snow. It was here at that point in time my next major asthma event took place.
Without going into a lot of drawn out details I can share that within a half hour of going into the storm that night I went into an immediate and severe asthma attack. Comparable only to what I experienced in 2004; this time a different trigger and no less serious….maybe more so given the circumstances and suddenness of what I experienced. In hind sight I probably should have been taken to the ER again. However in my typical male “I can fix this. / Denial of severity.” syndrome I got my self into the house and started inhaling every asthma medication I had.
The episode went on for several days with great difficulty in doing some of the simplest things without losing my breath. My condition improved in about a week after lots of medications and remaining immobile as much as possible. What didn’t improve though was the constant wheezing and congestion. The congestion for a very long stretch; until late Summer; was producing a solid tablespoon and more of thick gooey material from my lungs every morning. Asthma medications and decongestants really weren’t effective in eliminating the congestion. Almost seemed like they were the source.
So this has been my asthma journey. Given that asthma is a life threatening condition I have fared much better than others.
There has been a game changing event in the last year however and is really the inspiration for starting this journal. The foundation for this event actually started in 2014 with an introduction to Ayurveda Massage. A singular event at the time, but it lead to ongoing massage treatments and the introduction to Chinese medicine at an event in June of 2017 sponsored by the local Ayervada group.
The Tom Tam Healing System was described with a demonstration of one of the components of the system. While Tong REN was demonstrated, acupuncture and Tui Na massage are also key parts of the system. I have no intention of discussing or describing the details of this system here other than the acknowledgement of the system.
This journal is a documentation of my introduction to alternative medicine and where it has taken me health wise.
After the asthma episode a year ago and the ongoing frustration with the wheezing and congestion I set out to learn a little more about the medications I have been prescribed and their side effects. Along with that effort I researched alternative treatments for asthma that included teas, herbs and other natural materials. All sounded like promising alternatives to pharmaceuticals but not sure they were totally effective once I tried them. Since the introduction to Tong REN in 2017 I intermittently practiced that on my own and with my wife as an alternative, but not to the point where I was realizing a high level of effectiveness.
Determined to deal with my asthma, wheezing and congestion I revisited my experience with the Tong REN demonstration. Having experienced a short term positive response I was at a point where I really needed to consider that as an alternative. It was a choice between getting back to a doctors office with a continuation of pharmaceutical intake or get serious about alternatives. My wife played a large role in convincing me that some action was required to deal with my condition. It just wasn’t improving.
It was the last week in January 2018 that my wife and I made our first visit to the Collective Healing Center in Stoneham MA. I didn’t at all realize it on that first visit that I was on the path to what has turned out to be an amazing alternative to the traditional pharmaceutical treatments for my asthma.
The first treatment was a combination of acupuncture and Tong REN. As this was my first real experience with acupuncture I didn’t really know what to expect. It was an encouraging surprise to experience a slight improvement over the next couple of days following the treatment. Understanding that a single treatment wasn’t going to be sufficient to get to where I wanted to be we continued to book appointments pretty much on a bi-weekly or every three week basis.
In September of 2018 Tui Na massage was introduced to the treatment plan and then started alternating acupuncture and Tui Na treatments every two weeks. During this same time frame my wife and I stepped up our at home Tong REN sessions doing them twice a day.
In late September 2018 my wife introduced me to a set of Chi Dong breathing exercises. While a little awkward at first and struggling with getting into a daily routine I did come to realize these exercises were helping to rebuild lung capacity. We have continued the Chi Dong exercises every day to date.
So all of what has been written here so far brings us to the next major asthma event for me. This is a good, solid and positive event though that was the result of patience and persistence with alternative treatment for my condition. While attempted unsuccessfully a number of times years previous, the wheezing and congestion had subsided to a point to where I dropped the use of all my asthma medications.
I had certainly anticipated some level of relapse as I had previously when attempting to give up the medications. The difference this time I think was the positive response I was feeling from the alternative treatments I was getting.
January 3 2019
That was the first week of October 2018. I am writing this on January 3 2019 with clear lungs, no wheezing and no congestion. Thirteen weeks 100% pharmaceutical free and asthma symptom free. How can that be?
Interestingly, all the side effects described for all those asthma medications I had been taking described exactly what I had been experiencing since I started taking them. Asthma isn’t curable. Does it go into remission? Can it become dormant? Lots of questions at this point.
Tomorrow is one year from the blizzard where I did a pretty big “crash and burn”; that being the core inspiration for writing about “Breathing Again”.
As time moves forward we’ll see if this is real or not.
January 5 2019
January 5 2019……A year ago sitting here very much incapacitated with a big time asthma episode…….today….very grateful, very humble and quite blessed being able to breathe again. Also, still 100% pharmaceutical free!