Your beliefs about your lung disease could be killing you faster than the disease itself.
The F word. FEV. We all get to know that FEV is the measure of our breathlessness. We fall well below what is the average for normal people our age, gender and weight. The FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) is the amount of air we can force out in a second. But our lungs are like overblown rubber balloons that have lost the oomph to push the air out. Confusingly, ours is a problem of expelling our breaths, not of catching our breaths.
I get my FEV tested every three months or so at my chest doctor’s surgery. After 15 years on their books, I know the practice nurse well. We exchange views on contemporary novels (she was disappointed by Jeffrey Archer’s second book in the Clifton Chronicles) and she gives me a weak smile as my weight hovers at 43kg. She conducts the hated spirometry. You will all know the mantra repeated over and over as you breath into a hose the size of a vacuum cleaner, growing more faint while the voice urges you to, ‘keep going, keep going, keep going’.
The needle has barely lifted on the paper. I look away. I don’t not want to know my numbers. They feed into beliefs about how sick I am. I once asked and was told my lungs were functioning at about 12% of what a woman my age should be enjoying. I had to let go of that figure. It was not proportionate to how I was feeling, or to what I could do.
I am alive today because I have fought lung disease with my mind and spirit as well as with my body.
I’m living on 12%, the equivalent struggle to hanging out on the lower slopes of Mt Everest, yet I have met dozens of people with much better numbers than mine who are on oxygen, in wheelchairs, on zimmers, toes turned up waiting for death’s knock on the door!
They have given up on exercise because, ‘what’s the point?’ They have given up on good diet because ‘it doesn’t matter what crap I eat’. Some even smoke, because ‘I’m a goner anyway’.
In this respect, the medical profession does us no favours telling us we have a fatal, incurable disease. FEV critical. I call it ‘Death by Acronym’.
Believe you can be better than you are, take steps to be better than you are, and you will be.
All things are possible.