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Lung & Respiratory Disorders / COPD Message Board

Lung & Respiratory Disorders / COPD Board Index

My Mystery Illness
Apr 1, 2011
I need some advice badly from some people who have knowledge of this sort of thing, though I cannot say what is wrong with me. I'll simply explain my story.

About a year ago, I developed a chronic cough. As bas as this sounds (and I know it will), this cough seemed to develop as a result of smoking marijuana. I would cough so hard and so long, it actually became painful and there was no way I could keep from coughing. If I tried to take a deep breath, I coughed. Then, either due to the coughing or something else, my right lung began to hurt. I finally went to the ER to be checked out after having this cough for about four months or so, having been treated for bronchitis with no results, and just being completely aggravated with it. The team in the ER was amazing. They gave me a breathing treatment immediately, ordered an EKG, blood work, and a chest xray. EKG was fine. Chest xray revealed no signs of bronchitis, pneumonia, etc. The blood test, however, wasn't normal. The results, according to the doctor, said it meant one of two things. Either I had bronchitis or a pulmonary embolism. To check for the embolism, I had a CT scan with contrast. Nothing was found, so I was given antibiotics intravenously and some more to take home along with Tessalon Perles. The Tessalon Perles stopped the cough completely and made me feel 110% better. Also during that time, I had issues with waking in the night gasping for air, but really, no shortness of breath otherwise. When I'd attempt to smoke marijuana again, the cough and pain in the right lung would return every single time. I quit completely. Oh, and I did smoke cigarettes. I have smoked for about 13 years in total, but as of now, am contently puffing on electronic cigs to be free of those that are dangerous. Though my chest xrays were okay that day, because of the blood test results, they said it must be bronchitis and told me to quit smoking.

On and off over a year's time, the cough would return, but never as bad as I had it during the time I was put through all those tests. Around the beginning of the year, I started having problems with shortness of breath and worsening pain in the right lung which went all the way around into my back, and up into my shoulder blade. I felt as though the smothering was worse when I laid down, especially if I laid on that side. Again, I started to wake gasping for air and this nearly drove me insane. Every time I was examined, I was told, "we think it's bronchitis," and sent home with yet more antibiotics which also never helped. I started to think maybe it was all in my mind--that I was simply going crazy with anxiety. After some time, the problem seemed to get much better.

Today, the problem is back and worse than ever. I am not waking gasping for air, but nearly every single day, I am feeling short of breath with pain in the right side where the lung is, and still, into my back and up into the shoulder blade. I can feel a rattle deep down in that lung when I breathe deeply, but still, my lungs sound perfectly clear when listened to. The pain is mostly a soreness that just lingers, but once in a while, there will be more of a sharp pain under the breast or around the side, not in my back, but well, you probably know what I mean. Yesterday evening, I was smothering and my mom insisted I go to the ER. She took me, and the doctor there ordered a CT scan of my chest and neck. It's very clear that I have issues with my back, shoulder, and neck so he wanted to check out the neck where I seemed to have the most pain with him poking and tugging at me. I will admit that I was in a panic because I had been short of breath, and this no doubt made matters worse. Still, even when not in a panic, the shortness of breath is there and I feel very tired usually. Anyway, the CT scan was normal. The results read:


The heart is normal in size without pericardial effusion. Thoradic lymph nodes are not enlarged.

There is no pleural effusion, thickening or pneumothorax. The airways are patent.

Lungs are clear without consolidation, interstitial disease or suspicious nodules.

Upper abdomen is normal.


No acute intrathoracic process.

For the neck, there was mild straightening of the normal cervical lordosis, but that's about it for the neck...though I could very well have told him my neck isn't the problem as far as my back goes.

Anyway, I'm just beside myself with this issue. I do know I have some anxiety problems, especially when something else seems to be wrong, but I cannot understand why, when I am perfectly calm, there is that pain in my right lung, especially the way it behaves. Even when I wake, sometimes, I am already feeling short of breath, so much so that I have missed a college class or two because of it. When I was smoking, it became difficult to smoke a cigarette. Even ultra lights seemed too strong, and menthol aggravated my right lung terribly, causing the pain and shortness of breath to be much worse. Smoking menthols or anything strong had the potential to aggravate it and cause me all these issues, even when I felt fine otherwise.

About a month ago, something happened to me that brought on extreme fatigue. For about three days, I laid in bed, mostly sleeping, and feeling very dizzy and tired while I was able to stay awake. Nothing I done helped. Coffee didn't even give me a boost. I wasn't feeling any of these lung issues, but I did go to the ER hoping to get some answers. When they asked what was wrong, I simply told them, "I'm not sure. I'm very tired and can't seem to fully awake. I'm light headed, as if being high on some drug." The doctor looked up my nose. I suspect he even thought me high on drugs. During the time they were not examining me, I laid on the stretcher in the hallway and slept. He ordered a chest xray, though I'm not sure why since I wasn't there for the usual issue, and also, blood work. Once all the results were in, a nurse woke me up and said, "he thinks you have bronchitis." She handed me a script for Theophylline and Tetracycline and I went on my way, shocked.

The Theophylline provided no help, but then, I wasn't having breathing problems at the time. When I take it now that I am having issue with that, it does help a great deal for a short time. If this is anxiety I am dealing with and nothing more, I just can't understand why that works or why I keep hearing bronchitis (when I don't go in a panic from lack of air), or why the one test would come back a year ago to either mean bronchitis or pulmonary embolism. Furthermore, why would I have the chronic cough on and off with anxiety? I am LOST! Also, I forgot to mention, I had pulmonary functioning tests about a month ago and those were normal. Every time I had to blow into the thing, I had to stop and cough my brains out, but I got through them and the computer read out showed that my breathing was fine. When I have it checked with the thing they put on your finger, it's always at about 98%, even when I feel very short of breath. Sometimes when I am short of breath and do not panic, I just sit, very tired.

No one has ever ordered a pulse ox on me. Maybe it isn't needed?

So anyway, I am starting to think, yet again, that I really am crazy. What could this be otherwise? Does a clear CT scan and normal pulmonary function tests mean there really isn't anything going on in my right lung? Why all the pain? This has been going on for so long that I'm about to lose my mind, especially now that it seems to be getting a lot worse. I feel a bit more comfortable knowing the CT scan was clear--as far as lung cancer goes, but still, even after that clear test, I just feel terrible. I am not having as much trouble breathing today, though I still do not feel I am breathing normally. Also, I can still feel that rattle deep down when I breathe deeply--the one no one else can hear but me. When I am examined, I am either seen as someone having panic attacks, or someone who has bronchitis. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the word, "bronchitis."

A few nights ago I was smothering and just started crying. I knew there was nothing I could do to feel better, and it didn't seem anyone would ever get to the bottom of this. I sincerely believed something was wrong based on everything that has happened and all I have been told over the course of a year, but like I said, I'm starting to feel crazy again. On April 12, I have an appointment with a lung specialist through a referral made by my nurse practitioner. She gave me a steroid shot that day, steroid inhalers, and said I definitely needed to see him to be sure nothing serious is going on. She also told me to have my home tested for radon and mold as soon as possible.

What on earth could be wrong with me? I mean, if it isn't anxiety alone? If it is, how is it possible to have some of the pain I am having? Panic attacks mimic heart attacks, so the pain is usually felt on the left side where the heart is. I don't have that. I have in the past when I've had panic attacks, years ago, but not now. Now, my whole issue is on my right side where the lung is. Sometimes I feel like I must be dying and no one can figure it out, but how can I have two CT scans in a year that are clear if something truly is wrong? I know, I probably can't. Besides, to be having as much trouble as I am, if it was something as evil as cancer, it would probably be at an advanced stage so that a CT scan would certainly find it. I do feel better that it was clear, but though I suspect I might indeed be crazy, I still worry there is something else at play here that has been left undiscovered. For a short time, the nebulizer my mom sent home with me seemed to help, but not now. A rescue inhaler never helped. Theophylline is the only med, so far, that gives me any relief. It just wears off to quickly.

If any of you can provide me with any advice, suggestions, etc, please share! I am going nuts here, and at nearly 30 years old when I should still be feeling good, I feel completely awful. My life is pretty normal, and I've been pretty happy until this problem started causing worsened symptoms. I am finally back in college and loving every minute of it, but this is threatening to bring me down. My brother in law, who also has the same lung specialist I will be seeing, assured me that if I tell him I am scared that something is terribly wrong with me, he will put the scope into my lungs to look around. I'm definitely going to see if he will. If there truly is a problem, it will be found that way, yeah?

I hate this.

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