Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, June 10, 2011

Living with Chronic Nocturnal Positional Paroxysmal Bechesthesis

It started some 15 years ago.
     I would start coughing as soon as I lay down. Inconvenient and annoying, but not a huge deal. The professionals suggested it might be some mild type of asthma I'd just have to learn to live with. I did.
     Then one fall I went on a weekend retreat with several girlfriends at a cozy family cabin at Clear Lake. Since three of us were sharing a room, I crawled into my sleeping bag and warned the other two about my coughing habit.
     One of them, a nurse I'll call Marci, took on a most somber tone.
     "Oh," she said. "You have Chronic Nocturnal Positional Paroxysmal Bechesthesis."
     My inner drama queen immediately took the spotlight. This sounded serious. How much time did I have left? Months? Days? Should I be quitting my job, putting my affairs in order? No matter what, I would be brave.
     "Really?" I said. "What's that?"
     "It means you cough when you lie down," Marci said.
     The other friend, whom I'll call Lisa, let out a snort heard in Toronto and the two of them started chortling so hard they rolled off their beds, which in turn got me laughing so hard I started a coughing fit that lasted long into the night. Which, in turn, made them howl even harder. You get the picture. Good times.
     I'm not laughing so much now.
     Frightening new symptoms had me visiting the doctor, who ordered a chest x-ray. "Something unusual going on in your lungs" led to a CT scan. Of course, each of these steps is separated by weeks, during which one becomes convinced one is dying and every hangnail and eye twitch becomes yet another symptom. The internet is most helpful in self-diagnosis of anything a hypochondriac might fancy.
     The scan results were both comforting and confusing. Good news, it doesn't look like cancer. Weird news, we don't know what it is. So next week I see a specialist, who will most likely stick a garden hose down my gullet and I may just come home that day still in the dark.
     I share this because anyone who has reached my age has probably already played this waiting game and may be there now. This "how sick am I, anyway?" business is distracting, isn't it? But here's the thing. From the moment we're born, we are all terminal. We don't know when or how, but we will all die. Why we act like this is a big secret puzzles me. Occasionally contemplating a face-to-face meeting with our Maker is not a bad thing. Learning to wait isn't easy, but it's not a bad thing. Accepting that I don't have to know everything is not a bad thing. Appreciating each breath as a gift from my Creator is not a bad thing. The only "bad" thing is wasting an experience by not growing through it and not sharing it with others.
     So, at the risk of losing readers to boredom...and at the risk of feeling like an idiot should this turn out to be nothing... I'll share. Maybe we can learn and grow together.


  1. I'm sure you didn't bore anybody. I never heard of this ailment, so I did learn something. And I sincerely hope and pray that everything works out well.

  2. I have those terminal thoughts, too. I figured it must be middle-age crisis or something similiar. Maybe it's because I feel closer to death...the years I have left are less than the years I have lived, so it's on my mind more. Plus my body parts have experienced alot of wear & tear, i have not been kind to it, ever. I'm glad you shared your story...I have always enjoyed your writings! I will be praying for you, too!

  3. You wouldn't have heard of it, Linda, because it's not a real "thing." Marci is just good at stringing together Latin medical terms, and this one literally means "persistent coughing spell when you lie down at night."

    Thanks, Robin! As Nathan reminded us last week, in light of eternity, there is ALWAYS more life ahead of us than behind!