Saw my doctor again recently because I needed another prescription for my antidepressants. She wanted to know if I had gone for the chest x-ray she wanted me to have. I haven’t.
Last time I saw her it was because of a nasty cough I have and she prescribed ventolin. She said my airways are probably inflamed and irritated and that is causing the cough but she wants me to have the x-ray to rule out any growths that could be causing it. She said I most likely have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), also known as Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COLD), but I need to have the x-ray and undergo some breathing tests to find out for sure.
I didn’t have the x-ray because I don’t want to know if I have lung cancer. There is no point knowing because I have already decided I will not have treatment if I develop cancer.
The doctor was gentle with me and said it isn’t so much cancer but the other illnesses that she was concerned about. Untreated COPD progresses faster, she said, because inflamed and irritated airways provide a breeding ground for bacteria and they do structural damage to the lungs and airways that increase the inflammation which leads to more infection and so on.
She said COPD cannot be cured but it can be slowed and this is her goal. She said there is no point suffering any more than I must.
I said it doesn’t seem fair to ask her to treat me for damage I am knowingly doing to myself and she said we are all human and if she can help me slow down the damage I am doing that’s a good thing.
I said I know I am cutting years off my life but they are unwanted years. I don’t want to get old enough to get alzheimers or go blind or become bed-ridden.
She said it’s a question of quality of life. My quantity of years is being shortened but, if I don’t have treatment, my quality of life will deteriorate much faster than it needs to.
She made me blow into a little instrument designed to test some sort of lung function and she looked surprised at the result. She made me do it again and then a third time to be sure.
I asked what the verdict was and she said it was normal which was a surprise but all the more reason to have the tests.
She has accepted my decision not to quit smoking and does not try to change my mind. She wants to focus on what can be done within the parameters of my addiction. She wants me to have the tests so we will know exactly what condition I am in and then take it from there and her attitude has won me over.
I have seen many doctors over the years and none of them approved of me smoking but this is the first one who has acknowledged my right to choose and does not try to pressure me.
Other doctors have tried a range of tactics on me from nagging all the way through to shocking pictures of what will happen to me if I don’t stop.
All they did was convince me I don’t deserve to be treated. I must pay the price for smoking and suffer the consequences. For a very long time now this has not seemed to be a threat to me but more of a promise. I have always wanted to die sooner rather than later and my cigarettes seemed like a sure fire way to achieve that.
Now I am not so sure. I have moved into the “contemplative” stage in the stages of change. For the first time in my life I am actually thinking about giving up smoking.
I’m going to have the x-ray and undergo the lung-function tests. I believe God recently healed some of the damage I did to my lungs over the years and I am interested to find out if the tests support that belief anyway.
I wasn’t going to tell that story but it feels like God wants me to so here it is.
I’ve been smoking since age 14 and have suffered from bronchitis since around age 24. At first I only had to be treated for it once a year or less but, by the time I married, it was more like four times a year. Every time I got a cold my chest would get infected and I would need antibiotics.
When I moved to a warmer climate the attacks lessened but I still had to be treated with antibiotics a couple of times a year. As the years passed I had to be given stronger and stronger doses of the antibiotics to cure me and I became intimately familiar with the symptoms of infection.
I resigned myself to needing antibiotics whenever a cold turned into a series of coughing fits so severe they would cause me to vomit at times. There would be a metallic taste in my mouth after coughing which I came to associate with infection.
If I went to the doctor before that taste appeared I would not need antibiotics. If the taste was there I would be diagnosed infected and in need of them.
By the time I was 40 one course of antibiotics was never enough and I always had to be given another script. No matter how many times I told the doctors this they would only ever give me one course and I always had to go back for the second prescription. Once this had happened a few times the doctor I was seeing regularly at that time took to giving me the two courses at the first visit.
For my part I would wait until the metallic taste appeared before I went to the doctor. If I went before then I would be offered asthma inhalants which I didn’t want to use.
When I came to visit my children early in 2003 I had the cough but not the metallic taste. That developed during my visit so I had to see a new doctor.
He got me to blow into the same tube my current doctor tested me with and told me my lungs were damaged. He told me I had COPD and that was why antibiotics were not working properly. He wanted to give me an inhaler as well as the antibiotics but I just made him give me a double course of antibiotics.
I researched COPD. I didn’t like what I found but accepted that was what was ahead of me so I resigned myself to the fact that I was almost certainly going to end up with emphysema.
I ignored what the doctors had to say and continued getting them to give me antibiotics when the metallic taste appeared. By the time I arrived where I live now even two courses of antibiotics was not enough to completely get rid of the metallic taste but my body was usually able to overcome it in the following week or two.
One night several months ago I lay down to sleep and the usual coughing fit began and afterwards there it was. The metallic taste had arrived. I groaned and wondered how long I could put off going for the antibiotics this time.
“Ask me to heal you.” I felt God saying and I recoiled. This could not be God, this had to be my own subconscious, I didn’t deserve to be healed!
“Ask me to heal you.” I felt God repeat insistently.
“I can’t do that,” I answered, “I did this to myself and I am still doing what is causing the problem. I’m not ready to stop smoking so I can’t ask for healing.”
“Then ask me to heal that which is NOT your fault.” God said.
“What do you mean? It’s all my fault isn’t it?” I asked Him.
“Bacteria are sent by Satan to attack my children and make things as bad as possible,” God said, “they have no right to be in you. Let me remove them and heal the damage they have done.”
I sighed. If this was God speaking I didn’t want to disobey him but nor did I want to ask something of him I should not be asking.
So I prayed. I told God I knew smoking was a sin and I had no right to ask for healing when I was not willing to stop sinning but I was not willing to ignore His voice if this was really Him. I asked Him to heal me of whatever He wished and I opened my hands to receive any healing he chose to bestow on me.
When I woke up the next morning I was drenched in sweat but I felt my lungs were clearer. I still had the cough but it seemed to be located more in my air passages than my lungs and the metallic taste was gone.
It has not returned.
I still have the cough and there is no doubt at all in my mind that damage has been done but it feels like some degree of healing has occurred.
I’ll have the x-ray and tests and find out if it is all just the product of an overactive imagination I suppose.