The Lung Pleurisy Chronicles, Episode 2

Cat with paw over face

My shoulder ached. The dull aching lasted for weeks. My family went out of town to visit my in-laws. I walked to and from work—leisurely strolling home. My shoulder still ached.

It had been a year since my half-marathon/Monterey fiasco and, honestly, it scared me away from training hard. If each time I was working out regularly that pain would overtake my body and land me at point zero again, then why should I? As a result, my fitness routine included once a week African dance classes, an occasional yoga class, and walking slower than a normal clip. I wasn’t in shape, but I stayed active. I feared the shoulder pain.

So, while my family was away, I took the time and I walked, window-shopped, and sat on park benches along the way. I wasn’t taxing my body. At least, I didn’t think so.

One weekend I wanted to enjoy Summer Streets. And since my shoulder had been aching, I made a deal with myself—I would walk south, try Pressed Juicery Freeze once I got there, and then take the subway home. Taking it easy.

I walked leisurely south, ate a delicious Pressed Juicery Freeze, and then walked the 70-plus blocks home. And when I got there, I was exhausted.

After showering, I went to the diner to eat, and as I did the pain set in. Just like the first time, but not nearly as intense. I went to UrgentCare and this time I was able to get an X-ray and an EKG while the pain was happening—both were normal. (However, if there was fluid around my lungs, the X-ray would be shown that.) Luckily, I had a doctor’s appointment with a new general practitioner on Monday so I rested.

In summary, blood tests from the GP visit showed high levels of inflammation and earn me a referral to a rheumatologist. She took more blood that was tested and came back as relatively normal. My cardiologist did a stress echo to rule out pulmonary hypertension. During those weeks of what felt like non-stop doctor visits, there was still no answer to the questions: why was my body freaking out when I started to exercise more? And why was it taking the form of lung pleurisy?

The best explanation I received from my medical team—each one individually—was that there is an autoimmune response occurring it just hasn’t revealed itself yet.

I know that medicine is imprecise. We know a lot about the body but there is even more that we don’t know. Each one of us is different and that makes health and sickness a gray area, for us and the healthcare practitioners that we rely on. I know that my patience will eventually bring answers—some wrong but eventually some that will be right. In the meantime, I will just try to take care of myself the best way I know how.

I have kept exercising, lung pleurisy be damned. If it flares up again, I will deal with it then, and hopefully get more pieces to fill in this puzzle.

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