THE BLOG
05/14/2014 01:22 pm ET | Updated Jul 14, 2014

Appreciate Every Breath You Take

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Photo credit: Harlan Seymour

"I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in." - The Big, Bad Wolf

I huff and I puff, but some days I can barely blow a candle out. I am easily winded, sometimes just from walking up a flight of stairs, or reading bedtime stories to my stepdaughter Eloise with too much dramatic enthusiasm.

I worry that cancer is making my lungs weaker and weaker. I decided to see a pulmonologist and do some baseline lung function tests, so we can track how my lung strength and capacity changes over time.

Dr. Ganesh Krishna came highly recommended by several friends who have lung cancer. The Hindu deity Ganesh is the symbol of intellect and wisdom, revered as the remover of obstacles. Lord Krishna is worshiped as the source of all that exists, creator and maintainer of the universe. So I feel I am in good hands. Also, of course, Dr. Krishna is a doctor, highly trained in diseases involving the lungs.

Recently I went in for a series of lung tests. I sat inside a clear, vertical tube, unpleasantly called a "body box." It was a bit like being in an airport scanner, only smaller. And it had a seat, for which I was grateful, because on a few of the tests I had to breathe quickly or exhale so deeply that I got dizzy. My nose was plugged with a clip, so that I could only breathe through my mouth. I had a mouthpiece like a snorkel, attached to a machine into which I breathed.

Some of the tests were easy. One was not. I was told to breathe normally, then, on command, to exhale in a series of little pants like a dog, but I kept running out of air too quickly and my exhale was too faint for the machine to register. Time and time again I saw the big, red "Test Failed" alert appear on the technician's screen, and we had to start again.

After the tests my husband Harlan and I waited for Dr. Krishna to review the results. He told us that, while my overall lung function is not particularly strong, it is, "within the range of normal." This has no bearing on future susceptibility to cancer, but it does mean that my lungs have not been severely compromised thus far. At this, we breathed a sigh of relief.

I may have to work a little harder to fill my lungs with air, but the effort makes me appreciate every breath I take.

This column originally appeared on parade.com. For more by Jennifer Glass, click here. "Like" Jennifer's Facebook page here. See her video, A Photo a Day: One Year with Cancer.