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can't catch breath?

kelli1843's picture
kelli1843
Posts: 72
Joined: Jan 2010

For last month, I've had trouble with shortness of breath, mainly catching my breath. I just finished week #4 of chemo for SCLC. (I also did 6 weeks of this last year with radiation), then tumor reoccured this past January).

It has gotten more noticeable especially after I've been sitting or laying down..stand up and just can't "catch" a complete, satisfying breath.

Been hospitalized twice in last week for this..they put me on oxygen, run blood tests, eeg's, ekg's, ct's, xrays, etc. This last time, oxy was low again and magnesium. So, once those are back to acceptable levels, I'm released, only to be admitted day later for same problem. One dr. said I panic myself and make it worse so prescribed anti-anxiety pills to be taken 4 times a day.

Onco doc, rad doc and reg doc have all referred me to ENT's (blocked ears/vertigo), heart doctor, pulmonary specialist and respitory therapist. Apparentely,my problems all tie together..my pulse and heart rate are much higher when I'm standing than when sitting or reclining.

Nothing has been done to alliviate the problem. The gasping for breath scares me as I have always had a morbid fear of suffocating. Dr's feel no need for using oxygen at home. Anyone else experience this? Sorry to write so much.

Elizabeth15
Posts: 37
Joined: Apr 2011

I am sorry to hear you are experiencing this problem...it must be very scary. My husband actually had the same problem...he could only take shallow breathes when sitting in a chair, walking or standing....it exhausted him. When he laid on his right side in bed he would breath like there was no problem. I also noticed if someone visited and they spent time just one on one his breathing would relax sitting in the chair. No one gave us a clear reason as to this...the oncologist felt it was anxiety. Bob trusted this guy to the umpth degree....I suggested a pulmonary MD but he chose not to see one. Bob did use the inhalant Symbicort twice a day and when his breathlessness was really overwhelming he used the inhalant Albuterol. These offered some relief but not a lot...he took Xanax for anxiety but that also did not do a lot. He tried to practice breathing through his nose and out his mouth which helped at times. Bob never used oxygen during these periods...his pulse ox was always high within an acceptable range....we bought a pulse oximeter so we could check it at will...that was a psychological help to him as well...

I also noticed that when he was breathing like this when Bob exhaled he seemed to have a short exhale and then he almost seemed to force a little more out as he made a sort of growl/clearing throat sound....like he did that to just try to get more air out before taking more air in...I used to try to mimic him when he wasn't looking to see if I could figure out what was going on....it was very hard to keep that breathing pattern up yet he did it for long periods of time...that noise became a regular part in his breathing pattern. Bob would apologize for the noise but I never really minded and after a while I didn't even notice it...when he got tired he just laid on the bed on his right side and went right off to sleep with no struggles.

So we never got an answer for his breathing like this....I realize I have not really helped you put a name to this breathlessness but maybe knowing you are not alone will offer some help...I truly feel bad you have to have this problem with all else...I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Elizabeth

cabbott
Posts: 1046
Joined: Aug 2006

There are lots of specialists to see when you have lung cancer. The pulmonologist is the breathing specialist who can adjust what you are doing so that you breath easier. Sometimes that means oxygen, but sometimes you have COPD or asthma that will respond to meds. Sometimes there are exercises that help. I waited 2 years before I went. Don't wait so long before you ask for an appointment. This is different than a pulmonary oncologist(the chemo doc). Good luck!

JUDYV5's picture
JUDYV5
Posts: 392
Joined: Jun 2010

Any medicine with codine in it helps with the feeling of being short of breath. To qualify for oxygen at home (from insurance) your oxygen count has to be a certain number.
When this first started (no function in right lung) I didn't qualify either, so I borrowed oxygen from a friends Father and it helped make me a lot more comfortable. When we brought this up to the doctor I suddenly got my own oxygen delivered. My lung is no longer blocked and I no longer use oxygen. My brother is a cardiologist and I asked him about suffocating (my fear also). He told me that it was a very peacful way to go. Looking back at relations that passed from pneumonia I could see his point. I refuse to focus on my fears and Pray every day of strength.

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