Patience is a virtue,
Virtue is a grace,
Grace is a little girl with chocolate on her face!

My mother used to say this rhyme to me when I was little.  I think because it is so unlike me!
– I have no patience
– I am not physically graceful
– I am not a chocolate fan*

*OK, I am a fan of the Snickers bar, when I am hard at work nose to the grindstone – it’s a habit from all of my years of studying mathematics (the way I used to power through the late nights was with Snickers and coca cola!)  And yes, I do *love* chocolate ice cream.  And ok, you could tempt me with an extra dark chocolate square.  But by no means am I a chocoholic!

But I am having to learn.  You see, about 4 weeks ago, I got sick.  And it is still hanging around.  And it may take months to get back to normal.

Ah patience, old friend who never was.  Perhaps we can become acquainted now?

The Sick…

Four weeks ago I went to China and Japan for work – nothing unusual there, I have a job that lets me travel the world.  And when I got off the return flight, I had a cough – nothing unusual there either, as I always get a cough after a long haul flight.

That Saturday I went to yoga, to work the kinks out from a week of long flights.  And that evening, my lower back ached.  Was it just yoga, or was it more?  Was it a sign of the sickness?

Who knows.  But the cough wasn’t clearing.  Instead, it was changing.  Going deeper.  And by the following Sunday, I felt as if my lungs were coated in glue.  And I knew I was not well on Monday as I had a meltdown at work – because I was tired, not breathing well, and well, sick. 

I thought it would clear, just like any other cold.  3 days coming, 3 days here, 3 days going.  But the lurgy was still hanging around.  I asked to work from home, so I could stay in pajamas and do my work in peace and comfort.  But working from home is not really an accepted option at my company, and my request was denied.  Because I was so busy, I just plowed ahead, leaving early and trying to rest a lot. 

That weekend we went to the countryside, to fetch our bikes.  It had been about 2 weeks with no real exercise so I decided to go for a small run (about 2km) on Saturday morning, to see how I felt.  The fresh air was invigorating.  My legs felt springy.  But my cough was still there.  And I felt very tired afterwards.

When we got back to London that Sunday I felt like riding, but we opted for the gym.  Perfect, I thought.  I can spin on the bike and have a visit to the steam room and sauna after.  My mom always made me breathe steam when I had a cough, so I thought this would be a great way to do “mom’s remedy”.

But the steam room scared me.  My lungs?  Well, they felt like they were bubbling.  I started wheezing when exhaling.  And suddenly I wondered if my “normal cold” was, in fact, abnormal.

I made an emergency appointment with the doctor for Monday morning.  My lungs tested at 70% peak flow capacity.  The doctor heard congestion on both sides, wheezing and crackling.  And he wrote me a course of high dose antibiotics and steroids to try to kill whatever infection was brewing in my chest.

It was a long week last week.  The steroids made me feel odd, the antibiotics cleared my stomach as well as chest.  I finished the course of treatment on Monday, but a few days later my cough had returned.  Sure, it felt different.  “Cleaner” if that makes sense.  But I was still coughing, I still heard the wheeze.  And I knew all I could do was wait for my appointment today, to check my lung function and see if the treatment was effective and to decide what next.

5%.  Today my peak flow had improved by about 5%.  I am still only at 75% lung capacity.  It explains so much.  Why I feel so tired by the end of the day.  Why I am still coughing. 

And it may take months for my lung function to return completely.  Until then?  Patience.  And an inhaler.

Being sick for the last three weeks (approaching four) has given me a lot of time to reflect – probably because I have cut most of my training while trying to recover.  I always try to find something positive out of the situations I find myself in…  So, what are those positives?

A New Empathy…

My father has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – caused by smoking).  He has for years complained about how horrible it makes him feel – from less oxygen in his blood, to fatigue, to how awful the steroids are that help with breathing.

And for years, I listened but did not really understand.  Now I do.

I have a new respect for people who manage COPD and asthma.  I don’t even think words would do justice to how I just appreciate good lung function, and how bad it feels when you don’t have it.

As I have tried to manage through this cough, I have heard from a number of people that exercise is one of the ways they manage their lung capacity.  That with exercise they ensure that they are at a good level of function.  So far, I have taken it easy, and have not pushed exercise.  Partly because I have been so tired in the evenings, and partly because I wanted to give my body a chance to fight and recover as best as it could.

But now that I see that recovery may take quite a while, I am ready to get back to easy training.  To using training as a means of recovering my lung function.  I realise that I will have to be patient with my ability to perform.  That I will need to build in time to rest a lot after training.  But I am ready.

Ice Cream is Not Medicine

I have felt so low, so sick.  So I have reverted to seeking solace in ice cream.  Ice cream is probably the one “sweet” I could eat forever.  I love it. 

We always have a bit of ice cream in the freezer.  My particular favourite is the organic dark belgian chocolate.  So I’ve been on the ice cream, in search of a cure, something to make me feel better.

But it hasn’t worked.  I looked to the tub of ice cream for healing, and found nothing.  I doubt it contributed to my 5% improved lung funciton, although it may have added 5% to my waist!

Instead, I’ve reverted to fruit.  Fresh citrus juices.  Apples and kiwis. 

And it is back just the occassional serving of iced goodness.

The Power of Positive

Last week a friend of mine told me that I needed to jettison the negative, that it was draining the energy I needed to be channelling into my health and healing.  She was right.

As much as I love social media, such as Twitter, I have found myself aggitated and negatively triggered by the words I can read there. 

One of my friends told me that in communication, only 7% is about the actual words – meaning that 93% is the emotion or intention given to the words by the writer (or reader). 

Being sick has given me the context to continue with the changes I started to make in December – the refocus and “curating” of my tweet stream so that I am seeing and feeling positive from what I read, rather than negative.

I started curating with a fear of recrimination – a worry that if I “unfollowed” people that I may cause offense.  In many cases, this indeed happened.  My tweet stream and email inbox are testament to the fact that people take unfollowing personally. 

But the flip side is that I feel so much more positive when I look at twitter.  I feel energised by what I read.  I do not find myself questioning the choices I am making and things I am doing, based on (my interpretations of) other people’s words.

Curating has been freeing, with the space and energy that was previously occupied by negative thoughts now focused on positivity and healing.  I feel, well, liberated, in a social media kind of way.

Small Steps

Patience.  This sickness and getting better is going to be an exercise in patience for me.  And an opportunity to try to “listen to my body” and do what feels right, and natural, when I am recovering.

A 5% weekly improvement may seem small – but it *is* improvement.  I am heading off to Spain on Saturday for 10 days of training – a trip which will now be more about returning to training, recovering, and respite rather than the intense preparations I had planned for my challenges in April and June.

One thing I am taking with me to Spain is my “attitude of grattitude”.  I need to keep focused on the positive, and what I can do.  I will take the small steps.  And I will be patient.  Learn grace.  And avoid chocolate ice cream (except for maybe after a long hard ride!)

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