Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Problem I Didn't Know Was a Big Problem Because I'm a Runner

This is a venting post... Watch for falling rocks and rambling and run-on sentences...
When I got pregnant with each of my children, my allergies went haywire. I went from never really having seasonal allergies before, to bad congestion and probably off-and-on undiagnosed sinus infections. So this happened with the pregnancy of Sophie last year but never really got better after she was born. I thought it was just another round of bad seasonal allergies. Or like 2 months after Sophie was born, I got a really bad cold that became a sinus infection. Or before the San Francisco Marathon when congestion became bad again and I ended up with a steroid shot. Or a few weeks after that when I came down with a bad cold again.

Well, 20 months after this routine of sinus "annoyance", because that's all that I would term I was experiencing, Steve and I thought back through the last few months and figured out that I had lost my sense of smell. I think I'd lost it a long while before but I was always so congested we couldn't notice. But when we thought back, even the times I wasn't congested, I couldn't smell anything, even the horribly strong smells.

So at a checkup for Marissa's tubes in her ears, I asked her ENT if he sees adults. He did and asked generally what the problem was. When I told him I'd lost my sense of smell, he wanted me to schedule an appointment right away. In the appointment, he couldn't see much with his scope but ordered a CT scan.

This evening he called with the results. I had extreme inflammation in ALL my sinus cavities, he told me. It was actually remarkable how bad it was for how I described the mere "annoyance" of symptoms and the fact that in the end, it was only the lack of sense of smell that ever even brought me in. He actually thinks the great health I'm in because of all my running made me have such a complete lack of symptoms besides losing the ability to smell things. It made it harder to come to light sooner. It means I have not suffered through this the way others do. But he's amazed at all the running I'd accomplished with the disaster behind my face that the CT scan had revealed. He said he almost always sees this type of major inflammation with people who report severe facial pressure and pain, terrible congestion and drainage, and people who are overall miserable with all the symptoms of it. And often sinus inflammation this bad causes some lung / breathing issues, which would explain the wheezing I've had a bit of for the last month he said, which again I chalked up to allergies.

So I've been given a month of a strong cocktail mix of antibiotics and steroids to see what we can accomplish in fixing it. But he told me it's highly likely that I'll need sinus surgery where they would go in and clean all the gunk out and widen the openings of all my natural sinus cavities. That sounds awful. He said to not throw out my spring race plans; surgery would only put off training for about two weeks.

In the meantime, I can do my 50K race in 9 days. I'm NOT on an antibiotic that causes tendon rupture (runners, always check about this since there is one that can cause major problems for athletes) and none of the drugs should have side effects that would cause a problem running for 9 hours straight, LOL.

I think I'm most upset because I just feel blindsided. I just thought I'd need to be on a nasal steroid spray for a while to clear up some minor inflammation, and then I could breathe again. I feel like doctors often warn about the possibility of a worst case scenario but don't want to delve into it much if there's a good chance it can be avoided. The fact he thought surgery was very likely and was willing to talk about it in more detail scares me.

I know there are people out there going through much worse things, but as a generally pretty healthy human, I think the fear that comes with the word "surgery" is completely understandable.

So that's where I stand tonight. Contemplating the news, recovering from the shell shock, and just preparing for whatever comes next.


  1. Eek! Hope the meds work and you can avoid surgery!

  2. Sorry to hear about this Libby. :( On a positive note, I had sinus surgery in 2006 to reduce the size of an enlarged turbinate that was causing a deviated septum. Basically one turbinate was so huge it was blocking both sides. I have to say, the sinus surgery was one of the best things I have ever done in my life! I have had bad allergies my entire life and am used to not being able to breathe. I was on Claritin for 10 years prior to all this. The turbinate issue was discovered when I was seeing my allergist for my annual visit. He checked me for a sinus infection (which I HAD an totally couldn't distinguish from my lifelong horrible breathing problems), and then when they did a scan they noticed the deviated septum. Anyways, I only had to take 2 days off work after the surgery and was running again by the next week. When they took the splints out I almost asked my surgeon to marry me. I have NEVER breathed so clearly in my life! I was amazed by how much air I was getting in!! Also, after moving to SD a few years ago I actually stopped taking Claritin and I can still breathe great. Sorry this is turning into a novel comment. My short version is - I'm sorry you got this news, but I think you might be happy if you have the surgery done! I'm a big wimp and I swear I didn't feel a thing afterwards thanks to the painkillers. Napped every few hours on painkillers for 2 days, and then back to normal. You're strong, You'll be fine!! :)

  3. I'm so sorry for the blindside. What I DO know, you are a strong, bounce-back, woman that will come back with a vengence. If you need someone to vent to, I'm here for you...all ears open! (hugs)

  4. Man, that is crazy! I'm glad that you got it figured out though! I know it was not exactly what you were expecting, but I know once they get it taken care of you will feel so much better!!!!

  5. Thanks for the notes, guys! And for all the tweets and texts I received! I'm past the initial shock and just ready to soldier on, do what needs to be done, and hope that it can actually help my running as the doc is amazed I've functioned this well and expects easier oxygen use after we fix this one way or another! Trying to be optimistic. And Monika, you rock for sharing your experience, made me feel so much better!

  6. Hope the meds work, but also hope you get the right answer for the right long term solution. I know you'll bounce back quick. Sorry about the blindside, but hopefully long term you feel MUCH better.

    (And actually after reading this, now I really want to go see an ENT because I have sinus issues all the time...and I've always just thought I must be allergic to everything.)

  7. I had a friend go thru this when she was pregnant. Her's was so bad that her sinuses collapsed. You'll do great! YOU are a trooper.

  8. Wow, praying for you every day to help get you through this. Here is to the strenghth you will need to face each day and every trial. Amen and amen.