In my last entries, my cough was a sub story to the main event. Here it takes over as the main subject itself.
I am in my third week of coughing now. Three weeks of physical spasms, interrupted sleep, gasping for breath and involuntary regurgitation.
Being so unhappy at work, I have often recently thought, “Oh, to have some time off sick, to just rest and read a book.”
Except it’s not actually like that when you wake up two, three or more times in the night, coughing to the point of unconsciousness, your body spasming and your stomach contracting as you struggle to breathe, eyes streaming as you retch into a bucket by the bed or run down the corridor to the bathroom where you clutch the sink and spit and wheeze and hope that it stops so you can breathe again.
I have had so many moments in the past few weeks where all I wanted was to be able to draw a breath. I didn’t want a promotion, I didn’t want to be thinner, I didn’t want to eat more vegetables. In those moments, all I wanted was to be able to suck in air to my lungs to keep myself alive.
I’m not sure how the physicality of coughing works. If I get to the point where I can’t breathe, I guess I will pass out and my body will reset itself. But those moments on the edge of passing out where I’m struggling to take back control of my breath, when I’m shaking so uncontrollably I’m worried about losing bladder or bowel control, when I’m seeing stars, my only thought is, “Please. Let. Me. Breathe.” For to breathe is to live, and all the complexities of life evaporate in that moment when all I want is to breathe and to live.
Apparently I have a chest infection and fluid build up in one of my lungs. My doctor prescribed antibiotics, which I was supposed to take with food although the instructions didn’t say that, so my second day on the tablets was dogged by nausea and a painful acid stomach.
The tablets are still not 100% stomach friendly but I am trying to balance them with stodgy food to cushion their impact in my digestive system.
I’m more than halfway through the antibiotics now; I had hoped to see an improvement. But the cough still lurks, sometimes short and rattling but controllable; sometimes out of control and long and spit and sick inducing.
I never know what triggers it. I wake in the night and the simple transition from the unconscious to conscious state is enough for the cough to come and slap away sleep and steal my breath. Sometimes when I am eating a crumb of food touches my throat in the wrong way, and the cough comes to blind me, fill my mouth with spit, and squeeze my stomach to release to food I have already eaten.
Three weeks it’s been and I can’t trust my body any more. Sleeping, eating, breathing, moving – any of these can summon the cough, and I am at the mercy of the cough until it decides to stop. Sometimes it toys with me, letting me take a breath or two, recover, before it hits me again.
I will never take the ability to breathe easy for granted again.