twenty-one in twenty-twelve . . . continuing the good things

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With anatomy, work, class and a crazy week in the mix last week, I feel like [aside from yesterday] I have not blogged in forever. And this is accurate. Caroline jolted me into this realization that i have been a less than attentive blogger the last couple weeks.

I declared 2012 to be the Year of Good Things. It is delivering.

I turned 21 last Monday. Last Saturday my aunt made me this:

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I went to my fourth Switchfoot concert, which was amazing. There was a spontaneous chant for moustaches. I fell in love with The Rocket Summer because of this concert.

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Medicine-X

I am excited that I will be attending the Medicine-X conference in Palo Alto, California!  As I mentioned previously, Stanford has graciously awarded many ‘ePatients’ with “scholarships” to the conference. For me, this includes the conference, accommodation for three nights, and a good portion of my airfare. I am VERY excited to meet so many people who I have connected with online, and who I have yet to connect with in September! I’m SO excited to meet Kim and hopefully Cherise at the conference as well as hang out with Steve in San Francisco the day I get in.

But before that . . .

World Congress on Asthma

In 2010, I partnered with the Asthma Society of Canada as a member of the National Asthma Patient Alliance Executive committee. I was finally able to attend a conference call in May, and engaged with many amazing, passionate people with my laryngitis voice. A few months ago we were supposed to attend an event in Toronto which did not work out, but we will be meeting in person in Quebec City this summer at the World Congress on Asthma! I am very excited for this opportunity and to be among the handful of patients attending the conference. During my time in Quebec City, I plan to meet with two of North America’s most prominent asthma researchers, Dr. Sally Wenzel and Dr. Dilini Vethanayagam, and am very excited to meet both of them in person after multiple e-mails not only about asthma research, but improving the patient support experience.  As a part of this, I hope to be able to connect with those in my own community (such as Cathy on the NAPA executive with me) and across the country, and around the world.

I’m also hoping to walk the Diabetes Run for the Canadian Diabetes Association in September, along with the small-town Imagine Mental Health race I’ve done the last two years. I suppose I’d better get training!

make it happen.

When I finished tutoring at the end of Winter term, I said to the student i was working with “You know this stuff now. Implement it — make it happen”. The guy I was tutoring had a lot of really good, creative reflections on the course content of Issues in Health. He knew the content. He knew how to implement the content. Now it was beyond ‘course content’ and had become ‘choice’, and was in his hands.

I am the first to admit that knowing it is the easy part. Doing it, on the other hand, is another story. Some more than others, but we all are aware, to some degree, of which activities/behaviours promote our health, and which behaviours are detrimental to our health. I’ve said it before, that I spend all day (and sometimes night) long some semesters learning about health and wellness. Today, for example, though not the most wellness-promoting, I wrote an anatomy exam, wrote a lab quiz, then came home and ate Sweet Chili Heat Doritos while on Skype for hours.  Still, I am in the same environment as I was the past two terms, but the content around me has changed and thus my behaviour has changed. February and March, for example, I spent tons of afternoons in the gym for class, plus regular exercise outside of class. Last May I was in a physical-activity oriented class.  Each hill and valley in the below graph I have either an understanding of why I was successful, or an excuse for why my numbers [kilometers] are lower:

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I think often that my last year seems to have been in two parts: Before Promotion and Adherence and After Promotion and Adherence, with a transition period in between when the course was occurring. The transition period was like my intervention. I was surrounded by Good Things two days a week, by words and motivation and people who were fighting the same battles as I was: the balance of school, work and maintaining a specific level of physical activity. Some also with the additional mixer of unpredictable chronic disease affecting their routines.

This said, my environment on the whole did not change. I was still surrounded by the same people with the same goals [or a different array of the same people with the same priorities] but it wasn’t freely discussed. We weren’t bouncing ideas off each other all the time, like the discussions about reading textbooks on the stationary bike, or having accountability partners, or eating five bowls of cereal a night [that happened. Not to me, but to people in my class. So good.]

It is not about that that class is done. it is not about my asthma sidelining me for over two weeks. It is not about the anatomy midterm sucking the proverbial life out of me.

It’s about me. It’s about my choices. It’s about me finding ways to continue that process that started nine months ago and do what i am capable of, and then some.

It’s about getting back into it.

I know it. I know what I should be doing and I know how to do it. Now I just have to implement it.

Make it happen.


note: there is some crazy thing going on with my tags. i’ve got tech support and my friend Mike on it :].

asthma, the plague, and wishing for a cure

For the first time in two-plus years, I didn’t complete a 12 of 12. I only took six pictures. I was sick, and at the lake, and nothing really happened. I tried, but they didn’t happen. I was thinking I could cheat and post a bunch of random pictures, but in reality, I feel like it’s not legit if I didn’t take them on the 12th.

And when I say sick on Saturday, I mean full-frontal cold sick. Like absolutely ridiculous. I’ve had bad colds before. I’ve had long-lasting colds before. And I’ve had these with asthma before, but nothing quite like Saturday was.  This is The Plague: Friday night was the Leg Cramp from Hell, thanks bronchodilators leeching all the potassium from my muscles, in which both the posterior and anterior muscles in my right calf cramped up simultaneously.  Saturday was the coughing spasms, a continuation from Friday but incredibly intense and body-wracking. I did two doses of the inhaler and three nebs on Saturday to try to keep the cough to a minimum, and I really can’t stand to think what they’d have been like without the nebs.  Sick with asthma? For me, this is it. It’s countless hits of inhalers and multiple daily breathing treatments. It’s coughing so hard my ears pop. The coughing and the nebs are probably what lead to how my voice sounds:

Because you know what I’ve noticed? It’s all about better treatments. All the research. Never mind that we don’t know what causes this stupid disease, we know the root of it [inflammation and constriction of the muscles surrounding the airways in the lungs] and all research seems to care about is treating it. I benefit every single day from this treatment, and I am so grateful. But when one is to speak of advances in asthma treatment, there have realistically been very few in the recent past. even in the last 20 years, the medications are still much the same as they were in the 80s and 90s, with perhaps some modifications in how we are able to administer or dose our medications.  I’m not saying maximizing treatment options isn’t important. This affects my day-to-day life.

But I really want to see somebody trying to figure out the cause of this disease. How to interfere with that and stop this disease from developing to begin with. And once that’s found, figure out how to reverse the process so that we can cure this thing. It’s not about scientifically bunk treatments like bronchial thermoplasty [because surely burning the inside tissues of the lungs down works to affect the muscle on the outside from constricting, which is the bulk of the significant problem aside from inflammation in more severe asthma], or about the inhalers, or whatever “miracle cure” herb you’re trying to shove down my throat. I’m not into that. I want someone to figure out the pathophysiology and cure me, dang it. I don’t mention the word cure often because it’s too big to even think about. But I want one.

And when better to express my wanting people to actually care about a cure for asthma than asthma awareness month?

Because somewhere along the line, we have to stop settling for “good enough” and start reaching for “gone forever”.

medicine-x conference: the story, the scholarship, and the deliberations

I’ve been blessed with being able to meet a lot of really cool people, connect with a lot more, and be presented with a lot of really amazing opportunities.  At the end of December, I declared 2012 as the year of Good Things, and whether it is actually happening or it is just perspective [which IS still actually happening]. For instance, Ari Shine and Josh Damigo follow me on Twitter, and that is pretty awesome, because they are kickass musicians working super hard at what they do. I only mention this, because it is the pure connecting power of the Internet that has helped me land in a lot of places.

A few months ago, I haphazardly filled out an application to attend the Medicine-X conference at Stanford Medical School in Palo Alto, California, on recommendation of a Twitter follower who had attended Med-X in the past. Haphazardly because, thank you academic writing, I can make myself sound decent without trying too hard. And then, mostly I forgot about it assuming that nothing would come of it.

Last week, I received an e-mail that I had been selected to receive a full ePatient scholarship to Med-X including accommodation. Soon enough, the tweets started flying from others I follow with links of those of us selected for scholarships to the conference. In the Patient Engagement track, I am one of two Canadians, which is a huge honour in itself. Not only that, but to be alongside my friends Kim of Texting My Pancreas and Cherise, founder of Diabetes Social Media Advocacy or #dsma. These ladies are amazing people and hardcore influencers in the diabetes online community, so to be among them is amazing. We immediately started throwing tweets, direct messages and Facebook messages at one another.

Once the initial excitement wore off slightly, I started thinking rationally. School, money. Scouring the internet for the cheapest flights I could find with missing the least school possible. How I could get from San Francisco International Airport to the hotel, and how much it would cost.  Dude, I’ve never travelled by myself before . . . never mind in a place where my phone won’t work. Anyway, airfare had me scratching out numbers on a post-it. $550 is not bad for airfare going from the middle of one country to the coast of another in the least. But people, I work eight hours a week, sometimes a few more. I’m a full-time student. You know, the usual cards us students have to play.

I thought for days. I thought about making it work, about parting with probably what would end up being close to $1,000 for a three-day sprint of a trip. And I gave up on the idea, e-mailed the organizers of Med-X and reluctantly declined my scholarship. I Facebooked Kim and Cherise, Dia [who is basically my rationalizer] and Steve [one of my buddies in the Bay Area], and told them I was probably out.

Then at about 2 PM today my email bing’ed and there was a message from Larry Chu. Who offered an up-to $300 reimbursement toward my travel expenses to help enable me to attend Med-X. And my jaw dropped. I am already receiving conference registration, which is like $500, and a shared room at the Sheraton . . . and now they were offering to help offset the costs of traveling to the conference. This is a huge opportunity, and I’ve never done anything like this before. To attend Med-X with Kim, and hopefully Cherise, would be amazing.

I have another twenty-four hours or so to continue the considerations and make the decision. The Good Things, though, they keep coming, and I feel like how can I turn this opportunity down? Because it’s all aligning so amazingly–with so much of the cost being covered, with Cherise and Kim being on the roster, too, and with the haphazardity that I filled out the application, I feel that this must be aligning for a reason.

And how can I say no to the Good Things, right?

To be continued . . .

world asthma day 2012

First, there will be more road trip pictures eventually. But because I do things non-sequentially, we’re gonna roll on.

The mirror mantra for this week [because, dang it, I forgot to leave a mantra for the housekeeping staff in Watrous, SK last Monday]:

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The above mirror mantra may have to be a permanent addition to my bathroom, unless my mom gets rid of it like she has some other ones after a few weeks [she actually is responding rather positively to the mantras. Win!]. Once again, thanks to Jay for that piece of focus, and Dia for being my teammate in the crazy journey of asthma, perspective, #kinwin and keeping me accountable to it all.

Today is World Asthma Day.

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[Good picture there, right? #sarcasm. You get the deodorant and the ID bracelet and some med boxes.

Also the intended World Asthma Day tree tee I designed a couple years ago.]

My Facebook status, Facebook page status and earlier tweets today have been variations on this same theme:

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Okay, so I can’t go down on my own encouragement to kick ass and get active. Because “k-i-c-k-a-s-s, that’s the way we spell success”! [Thank you Giant by Matthew Good].

Really, the only ass I am kicking, or plan to kick, is my asthma’s [and my own].  I am pretty sure I picked something up on the road and am getting sick, because the three day mild sore throat has gone but turned into some increased sinus issues, dyspnea and coughing. Obviously the asthma finds the need to make itself known on World Asthma Day.

So what do I do? Well, my lungs feel like shit anyway, so might as well go take some meds and do a breathing treatment and give the neb an “eff you, asthma” finger for some perspective, strap the Garmin on it and ride that new bike, right?

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If the right answer today was to sit around because of the asthma . . . I’d rather be wrong. [The professionals would say I’m wrong. I’m not practicing what I preach either]. Come on, what is more appropriate than riding the bike called INSPIRE on World Asthma Day with the mantra of Being Intentional? Answer: not a lot.

So . . . I was intentional at kicking my own ass. Good enough, right? Also why is it not possible to not look like a total dork when protecting my brain? [The other part of my helmet is pink with flowers, but of course you can’t see the awesome half, right?].

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Representing for the Asthma Society of Canada.

So I got out there for my first bike ride in . . . years. [I am not very good at riding straight again yet. I can’t do sharp turns. Also when I met up with a lady with a stroller on the sidewalk I totally just pushed my bike along so as to not, you know, ride into them.]

Was it coughtastic and breathless? Yep. Will I pay for it later? Probably. Am I exhausted? Totally. Do I wanna go out there again? You bet.

Was it worth it? You know it.

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World Asthma Day or not, “We breathe it in, the highs and lows.” [Needle and Haystack Life, Switchfoot].

The goal? Do Good Things. Make a person or two think differently. Kick my own ass. And keep on doing it. And the disease? Kick it even harder.

Having chronic disease isn’t a choice. Perspective? It is. What I’m going to continue in regard to the asthma. I’ve made those choices:

Owning it. Being intentional.