exercise and chronic disease : sharing my asthma story

I’ve written exactly one blog post about the intersection of exercise and asthma.  Given the fact that asthma management is a pretty big modifier in how I exercise, and that both topics are really important to me from a personal standpoint, maybe it deserves a little more attention here.

So let’s start at the beginning. In grade eleven, the year I was diagnosed with asthma, gym class was not mandatory. This is likely both a blessing and a curse in that 1) My asthma was not managed well; 2) I did not have a family doctor, thus contributing to point 1; 3) I had not done anything more than a 1K walk since grade ten; 4) Being required to be physically active would have likely made me catch my asthma earlier and receive proper treatment sooner [Read: for me, “take your blue inhaler and you’ll be fine” is not proper treatment].

Fast forward to August 2008 — I’m using my rescue inhaler three to four times per day every day, and was symptomatic between doses finding myself awaiting the four hour mark so I could take my inhaler again (in that regard, I’m sort of a badass now and will dose more than two puffs every four hours if necessary).  Two months into my mandatory grade 12 phys ed classes I finally got put on additional asthma medicine (FloVent), which didn’t help as much as it should.

Fast forward to January when something made me decide to take dance of all things (how rad is it my high school had a dance class?).  Yeah, still got the uncontrolled asthma going on, still winter (my bad season), and now I’m basically going from zero to sixty in terms of exercise.  That’s gonna go well, right?  I spent more time than I care to sitting on the sidelines on days that i just couldn’t do it.  I started up on Singulair midway through the term, which was later discontinued as it was decided it wasn’t doing anything.  Towards the very end of my grade 12 year, I was started on Symbicort in place of the FloVent, and things finally started feeling a little bit better.

Around this time, midway through the term, I think, is when I connected with Steve, who has since become an amazing role model and friend. Steve was imperative in helping me get the asthma sorted out better and totally awesome in encouraging the physical activity. I strongly believe that if it weren’t for Steve that I probably 1) wouldn’t be a kinesiology major right now, and 2) would likely have just started sitting on my ass again after dance ended in June.  I started fitness walking around this time until it because freezing.

Fast forward again to midway through first year. It’s the winter, early 2010, the asthma sucks, and I start going to the gym. In no way was my asthma controlled, but it was better than it was nearly two years later, and I was sick and tired of waiting around for something good to happen. So I go to the gym. Take my inhaler beforehand, whatever, go give’r.

Here’s the deal: I went to the gym again today, and the issue is kind of just the same.  Especially in winter (granted, it is currently unseasonably warm, so I’m doing better than expected) I just cough a lot. It doesn’t really matter what’s up, good day/bad day, I just cough a lot, especially when I’m exercising. It’s one of the reasons I hate going to the gym, because I hate people staring when I cough like the guy beside me was today, and I hate grossing people out.  I hate freaking people out.  I’ve had enough of those experiences too–grade 12 gym when I crashed on the bleachers following running the last two minutes of the twelve minute run after walking the bulk of it because i was so freaking tight and didn’t know it was okay to take my inhaler again since I’d just taken it.  Then, in like, 2010 or something pushing myself way too hard and getting way too tight on the elliptical and having to stop, use the wall to support myself and take my inhaler. My friend who was beside me basically had no idea what was going on as she’d never seen my asthma get that bad before.  So the freaking out people thing? I’ve done it, and I hate it, and I try really hard to avoid that kind of stuff.  Like, at the start line of my first 10K, I took my inhaler and my coworker, standing beside me, didn’t even notice.

It’s why I prefer to work out alone, because then I can cough and cough up shit and nobody is there to get grossed out, and not have people staring at me every time I cough like the dude in the gym yesterday on the bike beside me. Like, sorry? [Related: No, I wasn’t breathing great at the gym, or before for that matter, so I was awake at 6 AM and don’t feel so good today, but in my mind it’s worth it.]

Since then my medication regime has switched up and things are better. It takes me three inhalers daily and usually a daily hit or two of the rescue inhaler (at least). But you know what? I’m doing it. It’s hard and it sucks sometimes, but it’s worth it.  It’s even more worth it when on occasion I can kick my non asthmatic friends’ butts endurance-wise, or in that ‘yeah, i have kinda shitty lungs and still do this, so . . . what’s your excuse for not taking care of your body?’

So yeah, exercise is still a current issue. That may never change. I just basically don’t care anymore, I try not to let myself be limited, and if this is as good as it’s getting, then I’m just gonna keep pushing unless I’m having issues when not exerting myself.  I’ll probably never be a great athlete, but what counts is that I’m getting out there and doing it and trying.  My current goal come spring will be training to walk a half marathon in Fall 2012.  Maybe I’ll feel like an athlete after that or something.

Yeah, chronic disease sucks. And yeah, it makes stuff in general way harder. But your body can only give you what you give it.  So what choice are you making on that?  Grab your goal, make your plan, and go for it. Whether it’s being able to run a marathon or walk up your stairs or play with your kids . . . you can do it. Own it.

What’s your story? Leave me a comment, or e-mail me about how you’re kicking ignorance through fitness.  Because unlike asthma, CF, MS, COPD, diabetes, heart disease or something else you may be facing . . . ignorance is a curable disease.  I’d love guest posts on the subject, so if you’re comfortable and would like me to share your story here, I’d be honoured — just let me know.

8 thoughts on “exercise and chronic disease : sharing my asthma story

  1. Love the post and your attitude! I remember a lot of your journey and frustration with uncontrolled asthma, and I’ve been there too. I’m really thankful though that my doctors have finally found the right combo of meds to get my lungs to behave decently, (and after then they concluded that I actually do have asthma) though they’re not like a “normal” person’s lungs. But, just 3 weeks ago I was given the OK and BLESSING by my pulmonologist to start seriously training for a 1/2 marathon, just as long as I don’t start it off too quickly nor overdo it. (She actually said she just came up with the idea of doing a marathon herself a few weeks before too!) 🙂 🙂 As winter is my most challenging time to stay healthy, I’m aiming for a 5K first, then 10K, then 1/2 marathon, the 1/2 not being till probably fall at the earliest. Still, I’m STOKED!!!! So once I’m not sick, I’ll be back to slowly getting the exercise level increased, hopefully next week. 🙂

    One step at a time. I. Will. Do. It. 😀

  2. Oooh. Cool! I like this post. Probably because I can identify with it a lot. Especially because I’ve been missing a decent amount of exercise due it lately. Ick. So yeah, I may or may not be up to writing a guest post on the topic. I’ll think about it?

  3. Great challenge, Kerri! 😀

    You know my story, but I may as well write it up again for blog food for you and bring it up to date (I think my last “my story” ended in Jan of last year or something like that).

    Oddly appropriate: I’m about to walk 3k to my karate class, lead karate for an hour (with little kids! In gis! How cute is that?!), and then run (well, bus half the way then walk 2k because my city transit system is stupid on Saturdays and it’s faster to do it that way than to bus all the way, but you get what I mean) up to grab my prescriptions from Shoppers, so I don’t have time to write it up right now, but you have permission to nag me on Twitter until I get it to you. 🙂

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