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Archive: December 2019

My Journey with Lung Disease: Family Connection

Posted on December 20, 2019   |   
Author: Gretchen   |   
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Written by patient and advocate John Torrence

The Infectious Disease doctor told me that this is an extremely rare condition, yet all of his big words sounded strangely familiar. My mother has had a long history lung issues, so I called her and asked her to describe her symptoms and medications. The more she relays to me, the more I remember about her condition. I remember being at her hospital bedside a few years earlier. At 76, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a mastectomy. I stayed with her the whole weekend, and what I remember most was the continual stream of doctors coming into her room changing her prescriptions. The Rheumatoid Arthritis doctor put her on steroids. The Infectious Disease doctor took her off, due to her lung issues... Back and forth.

Mom told me she has MAC, which stands for Mycobacterium Avium Complex, and is the most common form of Nontuberculous Mycobacterium (NTM). I remember her joking about it being closely related to Leprosy! Now that's something that should get your attention. It turns out, the sturcture of the bacteria NTM, TB and Leprosy all have the same triple wall around the cell that protect them and make them very difficult to treat. So, structurally the three bacteria are similar, but their effects on the body are different. After we finished joking about my mom having Leprosy, she also mentioned that she has something called Bronchiectasis. In three years of going to doctors, I have not heard my doctors use that term, but I planned to find out what it was.

At my next Pulmonology appointment, I reported to the doctor everything my mom had told me. He seemed unimpressed that my closest living relative has the same rare disease that I have. I mentioned Bronchiectasis, and I asked if I have that as well, and if NTM and bronchiectasis were connected, but I didn’t get much helpful information from him. I did notice, however, that my after-visit report from him indicated that I had "Acute Exacerbations of Bronchiectasis.” I am not sure if he indicated this on the report because I had mentioned bronchiectasis or because I was indeed experiencing an exacerbation of bronchiectasis. I wasn’t sure what an acute exacerbation was, but it seemed like if I was experiencing one, he should have noticed long before I brought it to his attention. I started to become concerned about the doctor’s knowledge of my condition(s).

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Categories: Awareness

My Journey with Lung Disease: Initial Diagnosis

Posted on December 09, 2019   |   
Author: Gretchen   |   
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Written by patient and advocate John Torrence

We very much appreciate that a fellow BronchandNTM360social community member and NTM patient is willing to share his journey with us. He will take us through his initial symptoms, diagnosis, identification of a clear family connection, his experience at a well-known health center and what the future may hold. This is the first blog in a series where John will take us through his experiences with lung disease.

I cough. You cough. We all cough from time to time. Ten years ago, the coughing began, occasionally at first and soon with great frequency. I attributed this to a cold, allergies or dust from work. I took every medication in the flu and cold aisle and ate cough drops, “like they were candy,” according to my wife. My local physician attributed the cough to the same allergies, cold, etc. as I had. It did seem seasonal and by the third year I was able to start anticipating the cough.

Eventually, as for most, the cough became chronic and intolerable. I had an x-ray that showed a white line on my lung. The doctor declared Pneumonia and I was prescribed a 10-day dose of antibiotics. I had no relief and once again went to see my physician. This time I was prescribed another type of antibiotic. My exhaustion reached new levels and I was napping every afternoon, thinking I was tired due to my work schedule. My wife chalked it up to laziness. I was so physically tired from the coughing I stopped in at a clinic and insisted the doctor see me. Upon another chest x-ray, this doctor called me to come back in and to bring my wife along. I knew there was something much more serious than a cold going on inside of me.

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Tags: NTM diagnosis NTM Lung Disease
Categories: Awareness

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