I'm going to be totally selfish today and explain what's wrong with me...medically speaking that is. No sniggering at the back please...!
I have a condition or disease called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease...COPD for short. It means my lungs are knackered...the little air sacs inside the lung, which in a healthy person fill up with air enabling them to breathe easily and effectively , are closed up most of the time with COPD and fill with a sticky mucus making breathing difficult.
Chronic tiredness is one symptom...and the one which irritates me the most actually...because of a lack of oxygen, not only in the lungs, but also in the blood. So physical effort is exhausting...although I write about going shopping with a fairly light-hearted air I'm often too tired in the afternoon of a morning shop to do anything much but sit about remembering to breath in and out...
Vacuuming the dust bunnies takes me ages and I can't make the bed anymore because of the sheer effort of taking everything off and putting it all back again...
And walking...now I can walk by myself because I walk exceedingly slowly, but if I'm walking with someone who tries to walk as slowly as I do, they can't and their steps grow faster and mine get slower so we end up hundreds of yards apart...
Then there's the malnutrition. People with COPD develop an insidious form of malnutrition because our immune systems are so out of kilter...so now the advice is to keep your weight up by all means possible...eating five small meals each day, and that could be a yoghurt or a scone with butter or a small rice pudding. Doesn't have to be a full plate of roast beef and potatoes.
And the rather alarming aspect of one's weight is that it just drops off without you realising it...I usually know when the rings I wear become too loose and I have to take them off to avoid losing them.
There are medications which help a great deal...inhalers are the real life-saver...some to take to prevent breathlessness and others to relieve it. Tablets as well for much the same purpose...but when it becomes out of control then steroids are the answer. Taken in short bursts over five days they tend to be effective at relieving the worst of the symptoms...but upset the immune system so are not without side effects.
One of the reasons I loathe catching the common cold is because a chest infection always follows...a proper chest infection on top of already badly damaged lungs is not nice...not nice at all. And it means in addition to the steroids I also have to take powerful antibiotics...and they tend to make me feel as though I've been hit over the head with a sledge hammer.
It all sounds doom and gloom doesn't it...but, and it is a very big but indeed, like most people living with a chronic and dehabilitating condition you find ways around it...I might not be able to dig the garden but I can sew...going for a long walk over the beautiful bog roads is definitely out...but I can still ride my bike, especially in places where I can free-wheel and so long as I don't come to a slope going upwards...I can't manage the younger donkeys when they are wearing head collars and need to be led...but I can cope perfectly well with old Neddy 'cos he's even slower than me...
Using the internet doesn't involve much effort...unless I'm cursing at the laptop...reading is easy and my shed is a total godsend for pottering about doing a bit of this or that.
It was thought by medical people that COPD was caused purely and simply by smoking...but there has been an alteration in that thinking recently when it was discovered it can also be genetic...and it can be caused by long term exposure to pollens, with oil-seed rape being the biggest culprit and tree pollens coming a close second.
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of living with COPD is that you look grand. Maybe a bit skinny...perhaps you'll have tell tale purple bags under your eyes from nights of disturbed sleep...but mostly you look fine. So when you weep and wail and announce 'Ooo...stairs, can't do stairs'...or lean on the counters in shops while looking on as someone packs your bags for you because you simply couldn't, even if they announced everything was free if you only got a grip and did it yourself...
COPD is relatively common...like many diseases there are as many variations as there are those people who live with it. I find it a feckin nuisance but I was once the carer of a lady who'd contracted polio as a child. She was paralyzed from her neck down...totally reliant on a team of carers, she was bright and cheerful and great fun...she was also an artist of some renown...painting delicate water colours with the brush held between her teeth...
My regret is I'm never going to travel the Old Silk Road...hers was that she'd never had sex...sort of puts it into perspective doesn't it?