Living Breathless
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Breaking up is hard to do

About six months after being told I’ll be on oxygen for-ev-errrrrrr, I’m just a few steps away from breaking up with Gus for good!

About six months after being told I’ll be on oxygen for-ev-errrrrrr, I’m just a few steps away from breaking up with Gus for good!

Gus and I have been having some issues lately.

Things were going really great for us for a long time. I mean, we’ve been together for going on eight months now and we were nearly inseparable. If I left, Gus went with me. Even when I was home, he was never far.

But over the last few months, I’ve been taking some space. Some me time. It’s not Gus’s fault; he’s been great. He’s so supportive and understands when I need some time away from him. But the more time I spend away from him, the more I realize that I don’t need him the way I thought I did. I feel terrible leaving him behind, but he’s still being great. I think Gus always knew that we wouldn’t be forever, even if I wasn’t so sure.

So how am I supposed to dump something that has been so supportive during one of the most trying times of my life?

By calling the oxygen company and saying: “Come and get it!”  That’s right, I’m getting close to getting off oxygen completely!

For the last several months, I could feel myself getting better. My oxygen levels don’t drop as far or as fast as they used to and I’m able to get farther on less oxygen. In January I couldn’t cross the room without it, and even on that I was still short of breath after about 10 feet. By February, I still needed oxygen but I wasn’t losing my breath as quickly.

Then I just got stuck for a while. The weather started improving in March and I was “hiking.” I use the term loosely because I was sticking with easy trails and only going short distances with my oxygen blasting just as high as it would go, and still stopping for breaks frequently.

Then April brought more improvement: I stopped sleeping with oxygen, and within a couple of weeks of that I was only using oxygen when I was walking long distances or wimpy hiking. In a few months, I went from needing Gus around the clock to only periodically.

And now I am just baby steps away from getting the all clear from my doctor to go on as-needed basis with Gus. I had another pulmonary function test, where you go in a little glass booth and blow into a tube for an hour. I won’t have the official test results until next week, but the respiratory therapist was impressed with my improvement.

If I’m honest, I’m doing the as-needed thing already. Since my oxygen levels stay stable for normal, everyday life things such as grocery shopping, short walks with the dog or going to the movies, I started leaving without Gus. Let me tell you, I felt naked the first time I did it. And I spent the entire night with this mild panicked feeling in the back of my mind.

Now that my lungs are getting on the healthier bandwagon, the rest of my body needs to get in line. Even though I’m still weaker than I ever remember being, I can still feel myself getting stronger. I feel different when I breathe. I feel different when I move. I mentioned a while back how much it hurt just to breathe when I initially went into the hospital. That’s gone. Completely gone. I inhale … and nothing. Trust me, you never know how good nothing feels until you’ve felt sandpaper in your thoracic cavity.

With any luck, Gus and I will continue to grow apart. But I hope we remain friends. Someday, I may need his help again, and I’d like to know he’ll be there when I do.

This entry was posted in: Living Breathless


I’m something you don’t see every day: A person under 80 who walks around with oxygen everywhere she goes. I have Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder which, with the help of my stubborn refusal to go to the doctor, caused some pretty deep damage to my lungs. My lack of breath slowed me down for a while, but I'm back to adventuring - just with Gus, my little oxygen tank, in tow. This year's goal is to complete the 52 Hike Challenge and get myself into a healthier state of being. Join me on my quest to become oxygen free!

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