Some things are not what they seem.
About a year after my heart surgery, I decide to train for a half-marathon. In my eyes, the goals wasn’t a big one since I’ve completed the 13.1 distance dozens of times.
So I picked my race and I trained. Racewalking nearly everyday, taking active recovery days, and a rest day here and there. I even started strength training again.
And then my shoulder started to bug me. I figure I strained it while doing push-ups and dips and that it would heal if I stopped. I did. Then, my shoulder started aching after each walk. I chalked it up to my arms swing while I walked and, since I was getting faster, my arms were moving faster. After some time after my walks, the ache would go away so I didn’t think it was anything. I kept training.
The weekend of the race came. My family and I went to Monterey where the race was. When I went to get my bib, I walked 5 miles out of my way. (Apparently I don’t know how to type an address into the phone.) On my way back to the hotel to meet my family, my neck was pierced with pain. That was only the beginning. As I walked, the pain intensified and started to move through my torso. By the time I reached the room I could barely move; it just hurt SO much.
What I should have done was go to UrgentCare. Instead, I took some ibuprofen and laid on a heating pad hoping for relief. It didn’t come. The next morning, instead of participating in the race that I had trained for months to do, I watched the runners from the balcony and packed up to go home. It wasn’t until after the 5 hour drive home that I went to UrgentCare.
What’s wrong with me?
When I spoke to the doctor, we talked about my shoulder, we moved my shoulder, he decided it wasn’t my shoulder.
“If it was your shoulder, it would hurt when you move it. It’s your lungs,” he said.
What followed were x-rays, and CAT scans, and what they showed were an inflamed lining of the lungs—aka lung pleurisy. So rounds of anti-inflammatories and antibiotics were prescribed. I was tired. But the worst was I could catch my breath while I was talking, let alone moving.
What is lung pleurisy: Causes and symptoms
Lung pleurisy is an inflammation of the lining of the lungs and sometimes, it can also include fluid between the tissue of the lungs and the chest wall. that can be caused by a virus or by irritation. Both possible causes in my case. It turns out that all my training may have loosened a wire from my surgery. The motion of my racewalking may also cause this piece to rub on the chest wall.
Besides the bacterial, fungal, or viral infections, other causes of lung pleurisy according to the Mayo Clinic, include rib fracture, certain medications, certain inherited disease (such as sickle cell disease), lung cancer, or an autoimmune disorder. None of which I had. Though after typing my symptoms into the Mayo Clinics Symptom Checker, I was terrified that I had lung cancer.
And who could blame me since the symptoms of pleurisy are similar: pain in neck and back, chest pain that worsens when you breathe, shortness of breath, possible cough—something I had, and a fever—something I didn’t have.
In addition, research I did at the time uncovered that this can occur after surgery. I also found out that it could last weeks and sometimes months.
Pleurisy defeats me
After years of trying to recover from heart surgery, I was enjoying my return to the fitness life. Now, I had a big roadblock to returning to the level of fitness I was at prior to my heart surgery. Because here is the other reality about pleurisy, it can come back.
All of this happened four years ago, since then the pleurisy has returned at least three times, one of which was nearly as debilitating as this first time. Each time I get frustrated, because each time it happens it seems that I am getting stronger and fitter. But there is also something else, there seems to be some stress in my life too. The catch is that I am exercising to relieve stress, but it seems that either way I end in bad shape.
Now, I am just trying to figure out what causes the flare-ups and how to avoid them.