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Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Cougher's Lament

I'm a cougher. I have been one for basically as long as I can remember. I remember getting sick and coughing a lot in college. My roommates and I would pass colds between ourselves, but I'd always be coughing for weeks longer than everyone else. I've learned that's what my body likes to do. I always thought I eventually stopped coughing, but probably not for very long before I'd get another cold again.

At many points in my life, I've had family members, friends and coworkers annoyed by my persistent coughing. My dad, who doesn't really intervene much in my life, would notice it and mention it when I'd be home for a visit. My mother-in-law has told me that I'm lucky not to be knocked out by my upper respiratory issues. Every once in a while, my back would even be annoyed by my coughing, despite being so much better than it was before my surgery.

And it's probably because of what I went through with my back, and other diabetes issues and thus high-risk pregnancies and so on and so forth that I've tended to ignore the cough. I've had enough pressing medical issues to deal with and maintain that I didn't really want another one. I try never to be far from a glass of water, and cough as needed.

I was sick again some time in the fall, I can't even remember exactly when, but nothing too serious. The usual coughing was happening. But the cold went away, and the cough didn't. It was annoying enough that I started to pay more attention. Life was busy, and I figured the cough would go away when we spent two weeks in Israel and drier air. It didn't go away. So after various snow days and taking the kids to their own doctor for their annual well visits, I finally booked an appointment for myself. I worried/prayed the cough would magically disappear in time for my appointment, but of course it didn't.

After a thorough line of questioning, my doctors think that one of the medications I've been taking for preventative diabetes-related reasons has caused the cough. I've been taking it since 2009, and it's a side effect of the drug. The plan is to stop taking the medication for six weeks, and see how the cough is then.

I should be thrilled. Not only does the treatment not require additional medical intervention, but it actually gives me a reason to cease another medical intervention. That's a good thing. But I'm mostly just frustrated. I hate that I don't want to go to the doctor for fear of having another thing wrong with me. I hate the idea that taking one of my medications, something that's supposed to help me, has actually done me some other harm. I hate that most of the time there's not a lot we can do when a doctor says we need something; we take it, hope for the best. I hate that I never, ever, ever get a break from diabetes, that it is my constant companion for the rest of my life, that it or complications from it will most likely ultimately end my life.

Before today, it was just a cough. Now it's a symbol, a signifier of so much more.

I really hope it goes away.

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