My asthma is a third of my age this year. At least for 3 weeks, anyways. Eight years ago today, I was handed a prescription for Ventolin by a walk in clinic doctor, at my second appointment with him where I adamantly refused his answer that I had “bronchitis” again.

http://i2.wp.com/farm2.staticflickr.com/1580/26429474300_9ed1a87011.jpg?resize=500%2C375&ssl=1I mean, had I been the same as I am now, I would have told him “That’s bullshit, this isn’t bronchitis,” but I wasn’t that patient yet. Although those were my first steps to becoming her—refusing the “authority” of a doctor who was about to misdiagnose me yet again.

The reality is, advocates aren’t born of perfect situations—if care were perfect, we wouldn’t have anything to advocate for. But in order to be effective advocates, we have to believe that our experiences matter, and that our stories can bring change. Advocacy is about creating something positive of the negative: it’s not reminding everybody about the shit we’ve been through constantly, it’s not about wanting to only share the injustices we’ve experienced, advocacy is not about the negative.
Advocacy is not just about me.

Advocacy is about wanting real change for ourselves and other patients. It is about the choices we can make to make our own situations better. Advocacy is about using our stories for good—finding the positive in the negative (and all that other flowery bullshit sounding stuff that is, you know, actually true)—if you don’t push through the shit, you don’t grow.

I’ve learned a lot in eight years. I’ve been places I’d never thought I’d go, and met people I never would have otherwise. Many of those things have nothing to do with asthma, but, would they have happened otherwise? I’ll never know. Eight years later, I know a few more answers, but I’ve got a thousand more questions. So, I’ll keep packing up all the inhalers I take—none of which are really new, and if they are, they’re not novel—and hitting the road. I’ve got hope that something better will come, but I’m not going to wait around 5, 6, 7 decades for it—I’ve got things to do now.

Sorry, science. I don’t believe you’ll cure asthma in my lifetime. And yep, I know pharma doesn’t have any interest in curing me anyways.
Prove me wrong, I dare ya.

Back in February, I summarized the 2015 soundtrack so far. In reality, I didn’t add another new song until May—probably because other than travel, March was much a void, and in April I found more work and felt more of a semblance of normalcy—even just saying you have proper work plays into that—and as I’ll get into later, the stories for me happen in transition. I headed to Toronto at the end of April for goalball nationals, my first competitive coaching gig, and then returned in May for Clearing the Air. Then, it was off to Denver

My Disease – A Skylit Drive.

awaken to the eyes of glazed humor
the haze in my somber eyes it burns so cold,
the things you wish you could know

What I thought on those return flights from Toronto and Denver was this: Chronic disease sucks—the community that can arise from it, though, makes it better. If I didn’t have asthma, didn’t candidly share that experience, I’d be a much different person today—for better or worse. And, there’s humour in it that only “sick people” get, and a world that only we understand.

as he enters into the world,
as a ghost
the terror inflicted scrapes your bones
let him hold you close.

[Look… where… over there… fear me]
oh i see what you mean, step too close
see what i see—construct desire
the fine line between disease and what i need

it’s exactly what it seems
the horror i love, the evil that beats inside me:
it’s called my disease.

All of the above: it’s a blessing and a curse. I may have friends and adventures gained from having messed up lungs and other sorts of shenanigans going on in my body, but I still face the reality that everybody with chronic disease does every day. I don’t know what that day will bring, I don’t know what the next hour will bring. Even when my health is stable, there’s still the lurking thought of when will the stability end? It’s not encompassing, but it’s still there. The community of people, the friends I’ve made, makes that tolerable—but even in the good, the amazing, there’s still a kind of evil inside my body that I have to make a commitment everyday to coexist with so that I can continue to own it. A choice so that “evil” does not crawl into my mind and make me more cynical than I already may be somedays, and more importantly, keeps me seeing my circumstance for what it is, rather than what it could be tomorrow. I somehow got a reputation for positivity, and damn it, I’ll keep trying. While everything I chronicle here is the truth, like I said in 2013, there are still “stories I will never tell”, or I will never tell in as much detail as maybe they deserve–there are some stories I’d rather forget—even though I can’t.

The possibility to do good, why the travel opportunities existed to an extent, counterbalances some of that. But it doesn’t make the other stuff suck any less. 
 

Progress – MUTEMATH.

Progress was added to the soundtrack in about July, but really encapsulated April through August well. Work stuff started happening: I got a job with Tennis Manitoba (thanks for the recommendation, Sam!), as well as a more formal respite care provider position

pulling your confidence through
some courage is well overdue
i believe solely in all your promise
why waste a second in doubt
you could be helping out
keeping your head in the clear

I finally felt unstuck for a bit—looking for work is kind of depressing until stuff falls into place. Which can take forever.

[…] every moment of time’s just an answer to find
what you’re here for, what you breathe for
what you wake for, what you bleed for.

Certain things stick with you, no matter what, so every time I hear this song, I think of the above lyric, specifically “[…] just an answer to find […] what you bleed for”, and gently (usually) flash back to the whole situation of most of 2013, and, while maybe I haven’t figured out that whole effing scene, at least I can see how far I’ve come.

everyone’s counting on you
say for yourself what to do
life is a card that you lay down sometimes
to search for the best way of all
is finding the best way to fall
keeping your head in the clear

Sometimes I feel like I don’t know what direction I’m going. I wrote before that I was okay with this—now, I feel like I’m finding the best way to float, not necessarily to fall. Falling means taking risk, at least, means doing something—floating just seems passive. And I’ll admit it: some of the progress has been passive.

every moment of time’s just an answer to find
what you’re here for, what you breathe for
what you wake for, what you bleed for.
what you hope for, what you live for,
what you’re here for, what you breathe for
what you live for,
what you’re here for, what you bleed for
what you live for…

Every minute I’m given is another minute to figure it out; another moment to make a choice to be mindful of even the most passive of things… 

Two weeks ago, I went to Denver.
(By the time I’m getting this published, it’s been two weeks.) The time was packed, let me tell you. (I told my friend Sam everything I did when I was there and she was like “How long were you gone for?” and I was like “Left Monday morning, came back Tuesday night.” and she was like “…I thought you were gone for like, a few days with everything you did.” Nah, just didn’t sleep. Actually I did. A bit. More on that below.)

So, I’m gonna take you back to the GSK Asthma Summit. (And stuff. A lot of stuff.) [Previous post: my thoughts on GSK {/pharma} + patients].

Monday.
I woke up and saw this on my deck.

IMG_0445.JPG(Also I had to wake up at 6 AM for my flight, unlike my last flight where I had to be on the plane at 5:15 AM. Beautiful.)

Then I saw more snow at the airport.

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The snow probably came from Colorado.

Just putting that out there.

IMG_0448.JPGPeople tried to explain to me that I was not actually in the USA and Canada at the same time. I fail to understand how this works, because while the airport may think I am in the USA after I pass this door, I could jump back out the window and be in Canada. Because, there’s snow out there.

 

 

IMG_0450.JPGThen I got on a plane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another point, my CLEARLY OVERSIZED BAG fit in the carry on sizer. Easily.

 

 

 

Then I got on a plane.

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and they sprayed my plane with green goo to de-ice. (Yes. Because we have to de-ice in May up in these parts. Thanks, Colorado.)

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 This dude is sleeping with his stuff in a very precarious position. The flight attendant seemed confused.

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And then I landed in this field that looked like a farm, and it turned out I was in Denver, so I met Dia by the giant statue of a potted plant (I expected it to be more giant, actually. It wasn’t worth photographing, I guess.) Dia is my Canadian asthma advocacy partner-in-crime, and the current Chair of the National Asthma Patient Alliance Executive. (And also she and I have seen each other every second Monday for the past six weeks and next Monday is going to break our streak.)

Dia and I took a cab downtown to the Hyatt Regency at Colorado Convention Centre where the American Thoracic Society conference was taking place (note: we didn’t get to go in, except once Dia tried to wander past the passes-only area. She was unsuccessful.)

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Dia and I met Dr. Dilini Vethanayagam, a respirologist from University of Alberta, Edmonton, who has special interest in severe asthma (and working with the Canadian Severe Asthma Network [CSAN]) almost as soon as we made it downtown. This is the thirty fourth floor lounge at the Hyatt, where Dilini took us to hang out—it’s always fantastic to finally meet someone in person after—at this point—a half dozen phone calls (or more?) and a few years worth of e-mails. Dia and I learned more about the state of the research study I’m working on with U of A, and where CSAN is at.

After meeting with Dilini, Dia and I headed over to the ATS Conference, or as far into it as we could get, anyways. Dia was in heaven as she picked up 20 pounds of respiratory journals to take home with her, and we visited the Canadian Lung Association table. You know, after Dia tried to sneak into the badge area…

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We also took a selfie at a selfie station to win a prize pack. (I think we didn’t win. I’m also unsure why I look more excited than Dia, because Dia is actually probably way more excited than me at this point because she has an armful of medical journals and she likes smart things…)IMG_0506.JPG

Wearing my Badassmatic shirt. Except I lost Dia’s challenge and didn’t get any pictures with asthma doctors with it on…

And then we got popcorn before meeting Dr. Sally Wenzel from University of Pittsburgh, and the Severe Asthma Research Program. (You might remember Sally from a previous asthma adventure to the World Congress of Asthma in Quebec City in 2012. We failed to get a picture with her, but it was great to be able chat with her before a presentation for 15 minutes!)

Now, enter my American asthma advocacy partner-in-crime, Steve (it took his cab an eon to get from the airport to the hotel, but he made it!)

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AND, his Boston Marathon racewalking partner-in-crime, Lis, whom I was also meeting for the first time… not that you’d be able to tell…

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…The first picture…

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Now, I’ve known Lis online for a good five years now, and in person she is every bit as energetic (to put it mildly) and passionate as I would have imagined (look, these words are failing to explain her adequately, so let’s just say she is this wild force of awesome, and you’ll have to meet her yourself!). We also met up with Sheila, another asthmatic in Denver (Lis was the odd one out—though she was initially misdiagnosed with asthma, and is since doing a LOT better since confirming she has vocal cord dysfunction! :].) Lis lead the way to Mellow Mushroom Pizza because Dia and I were kind of starving at this point and Steve liked the name (and so began my first of two pizzas in about 4 hours..!)

After food, Sheila, Steve, Dia and I grabbed the free bus back to the hotel, Dia and I got our stuff from storage at the Hyatt, and we parted ways with Sheila and headed to the hotel via Uber.

So, know what rocks about travelling with people with asthma?

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This—if you’re unfamiliar, the missing ingredient would be the nebulizer tubing, AKA the piece that connects the nebulizer to the compressor making it useful…

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Yeah, the three of us all travel with the same compressors/tubing… I headed across the hall to Dia’s room instead of upstairs to Steve’s. Really, I did not feel super terrible except elevation probably + fragrant people exposure + hotel under construction = kind of a perfect storm. I did another treatment the next morning, but upon landing back at home I was breathing easy again. Denver = weird. Which I was told to anticipate.

Then we went to dinner at Piatti and met the other two bloggers attending, Juan and Karen from GSK, and Samantha and Minyan from Golin, the PR company working with GSK. I rolled onto my second pizza of the day (margherita, and not just cheese ;)). And then Steve, sneaky friend that he is, made this happen…

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This was Monday. My birthday wasn’t until Thursday (oh, hey, I’m 24 now..!), so I was more than a little shocked/confused for a moment! So, Steve dropped the word because he wanted to buy a cake but then basically GSK stole his idea ;).

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How freaking beautiful is this cake?!

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Then we returned to the hotel, where I had to go get new room keys (because, no, I can’t just forget my room keys when I go to the pool with Goalball Steve [as opposed to California Steve] and Gerry in Toronto, I forget them in Denver, too. Fortunately I had ID this time. Steve, Dia and I went and hung out in my room after I got new keys, and when Steve and I walked in, I found this… (Well, it was in the bag at the time!)

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Yes, Ms. Lizzy (Lis) and Doc Boots strike again! Pineapple Fanta and Jarritos! (Complete with bubble wrap so I could get it back home in my then-checked backpack!) Lis knew it was my mission to get my hands on some Pineapple Fanta while in Denver, and… there it was, complete with puppy birthday card!  Steve got to work using some surface or another in the bathroom as a bottle opener, and Dia went to get ice (I am the lazy one who only tore the paper cups out of their plastic wrapping and poured the bottle of soda into cups ;).) Dia and Steve got into some scientific discussion about mast cells over Pineapple Fanta while I stared at the curtains (aka not the mountains. The hotel claimed mountain view but they were VERY FAR AWAY) cluelessly.

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Eventually we all went to bed (I did my bedtime reading from GSK with a side of GSK Ventolin): I sort of slept. Steve did not sleep. Dia actually slept. I sent Steve my sleep graph in an early morning text message.

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Tuesday.

Sometime around six I went and hung out in Steve’s room (note: Steve and I are polar opposites in the regard to Hotel Room TV. He always has his TV on. I never do. When I was in California, he was the one who turned my TV on, and I turned it off when he left). Dia decided to test out the 24-hour-Starbucks-theory (as she told us) and headed over to Starbucks nearby, after coming up to Steve’s room to pick up my phone with which she bought me hot chocolate. (…Yes, look, this is how awesome my friends are, and how lazy I am early in the morning. But mostly how awesome Dia is).

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Is it tag-team nebbing if you part ways to do treatments? 😉 I Instagrammed this picture with the caption “I get by with a little help from my friends—and their nebulizer tubing.” I usually only do treatments when I am tight enough for it to be really bothering me, but like the night previous, I was kind of not wanting to cough through dinner with GSK, nor did I want to sound more asthmatic than my usual cough during the event. Also, look, the things I do as a patient always come with a stupid side of asthma, and that is annoying, but a reminder that yeah this disease sucks but I get to do cool things because of it sometimes, and more-so because of the fact that I try not to complain about it and just live my life and coexist with my asthma.
Plus I always feel way better after even if I don’t think I reallyyyy need a treatment that much.
Plus also Dia made me laugh while taking this picture as she arrived at my room mid-treatment and probably yelled “housekeeping”. Steve also came [post-treatment] and did not yell housekeeping and just knocked like people sort of usually do. Then we went downstairs into the construction zone to get in the Ubers to go to Columbine Elementary School (for those wondering, no, this is not near Columbine High School), for the GSK Building Bridges for Asthma Care event.

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Here’s Steve and I being sleepy in the Uber SUV.
We are good shoulder sleeping heights for each other.

 (Photo Credit to Erin Guthrie/GSK)
 
Welcome to Columbine Elementary School

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With that, here are some slightly-dated demographics of the students at Columbine Elementary School to provide a bigger picture.
CES demos

Being mindful that I do not have a proficient understanding of the American public school system or its subprograms, I deferred the interpretation of this to my friend Kat. She explained that “92% of the families [in the area] make less than 185% of the federal poverty line; [about] $40K for a family of four,” and thus qualify for subsidized or free school lunches. (Note that in Canada we have no such national programs.) She continued to say that “In general, [with] that high of a percentage, it would be fair to categorize the neighbourhood as poor-to-working-class [living paycheck] to paycheck.” The schools the Building Bridges Program was run in had been referred to as inner city schools, and Kat’s explanation of the socioeconomic status relevant stat above helped clarify that to me.

I want to quote what Steve wrote before going any further:

So, do the big drug companies have a vested interest in helping these types of programs succeed and seeing the absenteeism rates drop? Would this type of program increase their inhaler sales? I seriously doubt it. Even the big bad drug companies do good things once and in a while and I think this is a perfect example of that.

This. And, like I said in my previous post linked above, I think it’s time we give pharma a lot more credit.

The Building Bridges program aims, in short, to decrease school absenteeism in kids with asthma—and through this, their parents are able to more consistently attend work. If we’re talking families that may already struggle financially, this becomes even more important. We’ll now break to a video. Because this is what they are doing:

This.

high five

This means that this little girl was in school on Tuesday.
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Didn’t take much more than saying “I have asthma, too” to get a smile and a high-five from Countess!
This means her mom (Qyanisha, in the video) is able to work regularly. It means she could take time off to attend this event without worrying about her daughter. It means that less children and families are living similar stories—it means the core aspect of a child’s life is able to flip from asthma to school, just like every other kid.
While I said I had wished there was a kid on the panel (and I’m happy I got to meet Countess!), we heard from a bunch of amazing medical providers working with the Building Bridges program. I’ve Storified the event, so you can scroll through. I have to say though, that Donna Sparks, RN, was my favourite speaker of the day—
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—I’ve nicknamed her Cheerleader Nurse Donna in my head.
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(We are purple under the stage lights?)
Another huge connection I hadn’t made previously, that Donna made (can I say again that this woman is awesome? Super Nurse Donna fan club, people): because these kids can be in school, they can stay in school. Donna underscored that if kids can stay in school, they can finish school—they can decrease their risk of becoming involved in crime by finishing school. I hadn’t thought of a link between asthma/absenteeism/deviance before: I just threw “asthma and crime” into Google Scholar: 34,200 results. Whether this is because inner-city areas seem to have higher rates of both asthma and crime, or because of issues pertaining to health care access, or because of algorithms, or actually because kids with asthma may miss more school and become frustrated and then turn to crime for psychosocial/socioeconomic reasons (or other cyclic things like that), is not super clear, of course, but here are some snippets (they are a bit long, so if you are not into academic reading, just read the first one and skip the bullets, okay? Don’t leave me hanging!)
  • The first concludes: “Evidence suggests an association between violent crime and childhood asthma prevalence in Chicago.” (Gupta et al., 2010)
  • Another:
    Results: […] Among African-American patients, age and residential crime rates were positively and negatively assicated with ICS [inhaled corticosteroid] adherence, respectively. Area crime remained a predictor of adherence in African american patients, even after adjusting for multiple measures of SES [socioeconomic status].
    Conclusions: This study suggests that an environmental stressor, area crime, provides additional predictive insight into ICS-adherent behaviour beyond typical SES factors.
     (Williams et al., 2007). (Note: Remember that ICS use is positively correlated with asthma control, and that non-adherence can negatively affect asthma outcomes. Also that these drugs are quite expensive, especially in places like the US).
  • And, yet another (also nothing the use of “may” doesn’t mean that this is untrue, it just means that, as an instructor once told me, that especially in health, research never really ‘proves’ anything, only suggests potentials—as per point #1 up there, and the most recent of the articles cited):

Increasingly, studies have begun to explore the effect of living in a violent environment, with a chronic pervasive atmosphere of fear and the perceived or real threat of violence, on health outcomes in population-based studies. Violence exposure may contribute to environmental demands that tax both the individual and the communities in which they live to impact the inner-city asthma burden. At the individual level, intervention strategies aimed to reduce violence exposure, to reduce stress, or to counsel victims or witnesses to violence may be complementary to more traditional asthma treatment in these populations. Change in policies that address the social, economic, and political factors that contribute to crime and violence in urban America may have broader impact. (Wright and Steinbach, 2001).

So, yes: this understanding/hypothesizing has gone back to at least 2001—and probably way before. Many programs in the US are working to this phenomenon, and I am happy that Building Bridges is among them—and, I hope it is able to expand to other schools. Because if one thing—asthma control, both in the sense of actual control of the disease and reclaiming the feelings of these kids that they can do anything… can lead to a ripple effect of good things.

The coolest thing about this event, I think, was that it was ensured that we got there early enough to meet the speakers, and that they so wanted to speak to the bloggers attending. That doesn’t happen at every event. The event organizers also had a fantastically sized gap between the end of the presentations and lunch that people started to mingle, and then carried on their discussions over lunch—an amazing transition, even if it was not planned! As soon as the event ended, I also got flagged down to meet Qyanisha and have a direct conversation with her about how the program has impacted her and her daughter—prior to connecting with five or so others just on my way up to my bag at the back of the room, I returned to this scene:

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Dia doing what she does best, asking great questions to Sheila—an asthma counsellor with Colorado Children’s Hospital—regarding parental buy-in to the Building Bridges program and how they deal with resistance to engagement and alternative therapy use—which is by educating without being forceful.

We flowed through chatting with a bunch of people in attendance, and then into the line for lunch and up to the tables on stage—I won’t lie, another huge highlight was spending lunch with the school nurses and asking their questions about blogging, while passing my phone over to show them my blog! How cool is that? I had to heckle Steve to make his way to the blogger debrief table because people were so interested in his awesomeness that they wouldn’t really let him escape ;).

Andrea (left-back), Katrina (right-back)
Dia, myself (duh :]), Stephen

Below, same, with Karen and Juan from GSK. 

Photo credit to GSK/Erin Guthrie on Photobucket.

The blogger roundtable was a great way to wrap up the morning with Juan and Karen. We basically had an open Q&A with them about what they can do better for patients (drug ads. make better drug ads, guys!), and other ways they can make the patient connection better. Can we go back to my post from prior to the event for a second? They. Are. Trying. Effort takes time. I realize that working in communications, Juan and Karen are just doing their jobs, but, people don’t get jobs that require high amounts of talking to other people if they don’t want to change things—that’s just kind of the way extroverts are. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next for the asthma community through pharma working towards bridging the gaps […no Building Bridges pun intended!] with patients and—I hope—implementing our suggestions, showing us progress, and not just letting the roundtable be a one-day, in-person thing.

Because whether we’re selfie-ing in an Uber…

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(Karen, Juan, myself, and Dia’s eye.)
Or trying to get our own Uber for the first time…

…Or laughing at this sign for whatever reason…

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…Navigating this security line with our plethora of medications and neb compressors…

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We have a lot of things that, together, we want to make better

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(or at least suck less?)

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“Not a doubt in my mind anymore, there’s a storm up ahead.
Hello hurricane [tornado?], you’re not enough. Hello hurricane, you can’t silence my love
I’ve got doors and windows boarded up, all your dead end fury’s not enough
you can’t silence my love. […] I’m a fighter, fighting for control—I’m a fighter, fighting my soul,
Every thing inside of me surrenders: you can’t silence my love.”
Hello Hurricane, Switchfoot.

(Asthma is kind of the storm—the kickass friends who dare to do something about it are the shelter.) 

Yet, we prove every damn time we’re together, that we’re about far more than asthma

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(Before, one by one, we departed—Steve, then Dia, then myself—
Denver International Airport) 

but most importantly: together or apart;
advocating purposefully or just living our lives that happen to include asthma…

We are still here. We sill want to share.

Disclosure: GlaxoSmithKline United States paid for/is reimbursing all costs associated with attending the GSK Asthma Summit, including roundtrip airfare to/from Denver, CO, hotel, ground transportation and meals [and phone expenses?! And for my checked bag after I got gifted Pineapple Fanta?!]. I was not required to blog or share on social media about the GSK Asthma Summit, nor do they pay me to do so (nor do they affect the content I produce in this post, or in the futureor the past, I guess.)

So this, this is all too true. And with that, I present, Goals from 2011 – Revisited.

Small things

  • Focus on the good things.
  • Complete the onehundredpushups program and not derail. Yes, I am doing girly push-ups. It is better than no push-ups.  If all goes well, this will be completed by the end of January.
  • Stop making Saturday and Sunday the exception: 
    • the weekend is not an excuse to only brush my teeth once a day instead of twice
    • it is not an excuse to forgo a workout or two
    • and it is not a cop out for eating all kinds of random food.
  • Become more reliable at hitting up the cardio workouts 45 minutes/day, 5 days/week.
  • Read over the day’s notes when I get home from school and make study notes as the term goes on, because it will make finals suck less.

Bigger things

  • Health advocacy: do new things, reach beyond what I’ve already been doing in some way.  [Maybe that’s doing more races sporting the Team Asthma gear, maybe that’s trying to see if volunteering at asthma camp will work this year, maybe that’s giving my time and my own body for research if I’m eligible.  It could be a lot of things, or all of these things].
  • Actually walk a half marathon.  I’ve been saying I’m going to do one for about two years, so let’s make 2012 the year pending all goes as planned.
  • Work with others to help them realize their own potential, be a part of that ripple effect.
  • Figure out where I’m at with God.
  • Make another attempt at the 365 project.
  • Hesitate less, do more.

So. How have I done?

Focus on the Good Things: It’s a conscious choice, but I try to nail it every. Single. Day. And I think I’m succeeding for the most part.

Onehundredpushups: Nope. I can safely say that I have not, nor am I trying presently, to be able to do 100 pushups… of any sort.

Stop making Saturday and Sunday the Exception: Here’s the issue: every day is Saturday and Sunday to me right now. Which means that I try often and fail at brushing my teeth twice daily—I always get bedtime in, morning is a bit tougher to remember and I don’t know why—I can tell you that I haven’t done any working out since several weeks ago when I impulsively bought a yoga app and did a yoga workout I really enjoyed and then… didn’t touch it again—and, I eat random food all the time. Right now I have Combos beside me. If you want to talk about random food, that is the epitome of it right there.

Become more reliable about hitting up the cardio workouts: 2013 derailed this because I was sick for so much of it. But you know what? it’s effing over. 2013 is effing over and it has been for a long time, and yes that got me off track but it is no reason to still be off track.

Studying: Currently irrelevant, but I can say I never really made good on this, except for in Anatomy round 3.

Health advocacy: In the big picture, I have done this—when I wrote this, I had maybe haphazardly filled out an app to medicine-x at Stanford… But then I got in for 2012. I had yet to learn of attending the World Congress of Asthma with the Asthma Society in Quebec City in 2012. And, I had yet to know that I’d start taking on more roles with the ASC, link up with the Canadian Severe Asthma Network, attend MedX again, and, most importantly, find more ways to practice everyday advocacy within the places I was all the time: school and work. So I’m going to give this a check mark—but it’s a constant growth, and I still have more work to do. See also: Badassmatics!

Actually walk a half-marathon: I don’t even know if this is on the goals anymore to be perfectly honest. But maybe see that thing about cardio above.

Work with others to help them realize their own potential, be part of that ripple effect. I’m gonna give this one a check-mark, but once again, that isn’t something that ends.

Figure out where I’m at with God. My journal would indicate that is still a big question mark, but it’s actually something I’ve been contemplating in the last week. And, I feel like I might never figure that out and that’s just part of my story.

Make another attempt at the 365 project. CHECK MARK. More to come on this!

Hesitate less, do more. Sometimes I meet random strangers off the internet in airports in a country I don’t live in, and they drive you down me state awhile and drop me off to crash in a hotel with someone I also don’t know. And then I repeat that process in a few different ways in a few different states. And, sometimes those people end up becoming your best friends. That’s a pretty extreme example, and I’m sure there was a lot of reservation, but… adventure is really not born of extreme caution, it’s born of optimism and trusting your instincts. And, it’s worked for me.

There are certainly things to build off of here, but the important thing is, I have been building. But, I need to act more, and more fully. And I know this—I just have to harness the energy to make it all happen, because I can. In the coming weeks, I’ll revamp the goals list for 2015—and be doing some introspection surrounding previous goals lists, too.

Even though I am to not be bound by calendar years, yes, that fresh start effect everyone gets so into is contagious.

I subscribe to about 5 different things that are like Groupon or TeamBuy [so, yes, two of those, plus three or more]. One day, one of them was proclaiming its sale of cold weather face masks. Good idea, internet! My face can not freeze maybe and I can maybe proceed to not continue wrapping very long scarves around my face in a ridiculous fashion as I have been doing since circa Winter 2008.

Except, then I realized the problem with why I don’t wear such items and instead use scarves ridiculously is because they look kind of ridiculous and water just freezes to your face and then you end up cold anyways. My bigger issue is breathing in cold weather, and the issue with these masks is that I invariably end up fogging up my glasses or something and then can’t see, and can’t really get home or indoors or anywhere to be able to see without removing the scarf and then that does not solve my “cold air is among my worst asthma triggers” problem, right?

Enter ColdAvenger.

“If you can’t breathe, you can’t play.”

—ColdAvenger 

Okay yeah, that’s a hell of a slogan there, especially for this Canuck, right?
Then I read about the science behind the mask. Because, let’s be honest here… the black version of the mask looks kind of Darth-vader-esque, and as a 23-year-old-girl who frequently wears pink and purple outerwear, I’m not sure that Darth Vader is the look I’m going for.
Except I’m not into sounding like Vader, either, and we’ve already got enough Darth Vader asthma memes, right?
And so on.
Anyways, I reached out to the cool people at Cold Avenger, told them a bit of my story and offered to review on my blog, and they offered to send me out a media package to try out the Cold Avenger myself. Phil was awesome to deal with, friendly and personable, and—get this—I e-mailed my request in, and had a response within ten minutes. So, clearly their customer care isn’t lacking! Phil and I discussed what I intended to use the mask for, and he decided that the Cold Avenger Pro half mask was the better bet for me, “Just in case you start jumping out of planes with your new ability to breathe in cold weather.”
That’s what I’m talking about!

So, in avoidance of looking like Darth Vader (though very confident in my overall level of badassmatic!) I opted for the white “SnowHunter” version of the Cold Avenger Pro half mask, which arrived in my mailbox from Missoula, Montana little more than a week later.
Except it was still October then so clearly I did not yet need the mask […fortunately. I do live in Winnipeg, after all].
So I tried it out a few times last week once the hardcore chill hit, and damn, I am okay looking the part of a super hero/villain/whatever I am not up on my superheroes really for the way this thing works.
The science (more technical version here): Breathe in cold air to the mask. Cold air enters through vented part up front (which is adjustable—so if you need a higher level of ventilation to accommodate for increased respiratory rates due to activity, you can rock that, but if it’s super windy and too much air is being pushed in, you can make the gaps smaller/fewer and thus allow less air to be forced into the mask.) The very (flexible material) that protrudes out over the nose and mouth also catches the moisture/warmth of the air that gets exhaled, so that the next time air is inhaled, it mixes with some warm particles and… viola, no more breathing in crazy cold air!
A bit of a user-end primer on how the valve system works: if I’m doing something of low intensity, like walking to the bus except straight into a north wind, I’ve got the internal bit adjusted to let less air in at me because my respiratory rate isn’t that high and because more air is already being pushed into the mask. [Science, I tell you. Diffusion is where it’s at.] Keeps the air going into the body warmer and thus, the Cold Avenger team argues that it keeps you warmer by doing so—pretty cool, right?
So… Does it work?
 (Note: I’ve since found it is much better to run my earphones UNDER the mask. Also, on this 10 minute walk to the bus, ice crystals formed on my earphone wires just because of how it was hanging by the mask. Easily rectified by running the wires along the side of my face—and, proof of how cold it actually was outside?)
First thing’s first, you’ll see the gap where my earphone wire goes in on the right side—rectified, as stated above, but this was the culprit for the glasses fogging I experienced. The Cold Avenger, for ski goggle wearers and glasses wearers alike, comes with a nose wire so that it can be adjusted to seal more completely around the face.  This picture is from day 1 of Cold Avenger use. By day 2, I had the kinks worked out with the earphones and my hair and everything (the toque’s real use this day was actually because my hair kept sliding around outside the mask, and into my eyes/face and whatnot, so the toque’s sole purpose was actually keeping my hair back ;).
My asthma is really triggered by cold air (yes, I know, Canadian problems much?). Within five minutes of being outside in weather like it was on day 1 of using the Cold Avenger (-10*C, or -18*C with the windchill)—or even milder sometimes—I’m usually at the very least coughing, or feeling some degree of breathing discomfort. WITH the Cold Avenger? I didn’t cough at all until I got to the bus stop (8 minutes into being outside, walking fairly briskly). In fact, while the Cold Avenger people say [and I won’t dispute them, just an observation!] you’ll be warmer in the mask, I actually think I felt colder simply because I wasn’t hyperfocused on my breathing being crappy! So, hey, if I’m going to feel a bit colder because I can breathe!? I can deal with that, guys.
I’ve had a few friends ask (unprovoked even!) about the mask, and I’ve had nothing but good things to say—I mean, of course with the occasional joke included about being a superhero, how could I not?! I can’t wait to find some ice and try it out while skating or playing hockey outdoors with my friends, because if it can make those things more enjoyable, then I will be excited—and, as Phil discussed, if I find some planes to go winter skydiving out of, then hey, I’m ready for that, too! While I used to sometimes have to pre-medicate with Ventolin before even going outside briefly, I hope the Cold Avenger brings me back to a place where I can simply pre-medicate for exercise outdoors like normal instead of for simply going outdoors!
While I got this thing for free to review, now that I’ve tried it and experienced how it works with my asthma, I definitely think it would be worth shelling out the $60 for if you live in a place like I do where it’s cold for up to half the year and have cold induced asthma, or simply do a lot of activities outside and are looking for a solution that doesn’t restrict your ability to breathe or cause ice to form on your face like many alternatives (the crazy scarf wrap, for example) do. Plus, as you can see, I highly recommend upping your badass quotient and rocking some coordinating sunglasses with the Cold Avenger, too.
…Because I’d say that goes with the badassery of avenging, no?
Disclosure: I reached out to Phil at Cold Avenger who agreed to send out a mask and a kit containing information and stickers (!!!) for free for me to review. I offered to do the review in my initial message, but was under no obligation to provide a favourable review (but, they know their product, so clearly they knew they’d win me over :]). 
edit 5:34 pm 11/24/14: Kat pointed out that I meant diffusion and not osmosis up there. She is correct.