December 14th, 2007

Late Learner

A few weeks ago we took Skylar in to see her pediatrician. As is frequently the case when I'm around smart physicians, attuned to the role that genes play in the proclivity to suffer particular maladies, the conversation turned to my audibly compromised respiratory system. I explained that my breathing had improved a lot since commencing to take Rhinocort, a nasal steroid, but that I was still having the trouble with nighttime coughing fits that have plagued me since moving to the desert. Skylar's doctor then explained that those fits are the product of my asthma and fetched me a free sample of a steroid inhaler and told me I should start taking it. Although I had spent many hours talking to my own doctors about my respiratory problems, this was the first time that anyone made the connection between the coughing that has made much of my life here miserable -- lack of sleep, extremities that feel like they're cased in lead, stomach problems from both the coughing itself and the various remedies I take to control it -- and the asthma which, to be honest, I never really thought as being particularly bad because, unless I'm around cigarette smoke for an extended period -- as still happens, unfortunately, at work, since the kindly old man across the hall still lights up in his office all the time -- or have an infection, I don't usually have the symptoms that scream out "Danger!"

At any rate, I've been trying the free sample for a week and am already seeing pronounced improvement in my sleep. I'd taken inhaled steroids before when I had pneumonia and found that, despite the fact that they aren't supposed to affect anything other than one's respiratory system, they made me feel jumpy and quick to anger. The one I'm taking now, however, seems to have far more muted side effects of this nature, although I do still "heat up" faster than usual when something hurts or upsets me. But I'm willing to put up with that slightly increased edginess if it means that I can sleep at night, because lack of sleep also lowers my defenses against acting like an asshole and, furthermore, has a seriously negative effect on my productivity. I only wish that I'd realized sooner that the nighttime coughing was bound up with my asthma. Come to think of it, it didn't start becoming a real problem until after I had the horrible bug in November, 2000 that made me lose thirty pounds in three weeks. I suspect that it did some permanent damage to the lower reaches of my lungs. Anyway, I'm excited at the prospect of a winter -- the problem is worse in winter -- devoid of those weeks where I'm up every other night doubled over in the front room, taking puff after puff from my non-steroid inhaler. Interestingly, I was talking to a friend the other day and she said that her son, who sees the same pediatrician as Skylar, was also told to use the steroid inhaler for an asthma-induced coughing problem and has had excellent results from the treatment. "Live and learn," as they say, and "Better late than never."

The Prodigal Something

I only got to play two-on-two today. But the fact that I got to shoot and dribble a lot more than I do in our full-court games meant that I could get a better sense of how my game is going mentally and physically. I still suffer from a fear of having my shot blocked that leads me to take more difficult shots than are necessary. And my right knee still struggles with moves that require pivoting. There was a ten-minute stretch today, however, where I felt like a much better player than I have been in years. I made a bunch of shots between ten and fifteen feet that I'd set up by driving to the hoop earlier. I had a nice half hook from the right baseline. And then, to top it all off, I dribbled in a few feet left of the paint and, using the rim to protect the ball, spun in a tight reverse layup on the right side of the basket. The ball rapidly circled the rim a few times before going in, like water headed down the drain. It reminded me of when I used to practice reverse layups in the cold as a teenager in Maryland, though I shot them much more loosely, with lots of space between myself and the rim, back then. When the shot dropped, I gave an aggressive shout of glee, something I rarely do when playing sports. It felt good. If my knees hold up, maybe I can make that kind of basket more often.