It began as just a typical cough. At first, I thought it was related to a common cold or some type of seasonal allergy, and I expected it to last only a week to 10 days. Over time, it became a hacking cough, deep in my chest but unproductive. Until I ate a meal, that is.
The coughing would resume. It was hard coughing that took a lot of effort, and once it started, it wouldn’t stop. Eventually, I would run to the bathroom and cough up my entire meal. Only then would I experience some temporary relief. I gradually started to avoid eating; the end result simply wasn’t worth satisfying my hunger.
After seeing a whole host of physicians, I was pointed in the direction of a pulmonologist. I tried eagerly to schedule an appointment with one, but pulmonologists in my area simply didn’t have any openings for months. It was June when “The Cough” set in and I started trying to make an appointment; it was October by the time I actually got one. Unfortunately, my insurance carrier didn’t allow me to go to a doctor who could get me in sooner.
In the meantime, I took every cough medication I could find to help with what I started to describe as my “barking.” I eventually found that a cough syrup with codeine gave me the most relief from my distress, but it was only temporary. The Cough eventually came back. People would often say, “You should do something about that cough.” Or “Have you seen a doctor?” If they’d only known how hard I was trying.
Before long, it was difficult to imagine life without The Cough. It was there with me morning, noon, and night. The constant coughing was tiring, but made falling asleep difficult. It would wake me up, too. It interfered with my desire to eat and my ability to keep food down. I spent the months before my appointment walking around in a fog, searching for some type of respite.
I finally learned to hold a pillow at my chest when I coughed. This trick helped alleviate the pain and soreness a little. Even after the bronchoscopy was performed, I was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, and The Cough eventually cleared up, my chest remained sore for a very long time.
Now when I start coughing, either due to a common cold or seasonal allergies, I immediately grow concerned. Is The Cough coming back? Should I be alarmed? The experience is apparently embedded as deeply in my memory as it was in my chest.
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