Creative awareness: I am all about it.

Elisheva sent me a link to a Kickstarter project the other day. I have never backed a project so quickly in my life (I couldn’t remember my password, which caused issues but ALL BECAME WELL). To say that this project intrigued was an understatement. Essentially, I immediately was trying to figure out how to get in touch with the creator of this project so we could talk more about it.

Brandon Vosika is in the process of creating an art book called Shake Well Before Use: A Book of Paintings About Asthma. Each book will be professionally printed and then hand-bound by Brandon, resulting in a really special and unique compilation of original art focused on asthma.  Brandon and I are only a couple years apart in age, and I was stoked to find someone my age also pursuing asthma advocacy in a creative way. Within 12 hours of finding out about the Kickstarter, Brandon and I threw multiple e-mails back and forth, and put this Q&A post together so that more people can learn about his project.

Thanks, Brandon, for jumping on board with this!


Shake Well Before Use – Art by Brandon Vosika.

Kerri: Hi Brandon, thanks for collaborating on this with me! So, because Shake Well is an art project, I guess we’d better start with the basics: when did you get involved in art? What started that part of the journey for you?
Brandon: I started painting very silly things about 8 or 9 years ago, in high school. From then to now I’ve taken several long and short hiatuses to record music or do other creative sorts of things like that but it’s always come back to painting. The start of this journey of my art came in a rather cliche way actually… I was quite sad and didn’t know what to do with myself. So I decided to start painting. This is the case with many people, I know. The only difference for me what they I never stopped and was able to grow and mature and my silly sad art grew and matured with me (thank god) because now I don’t find what I do sad anymore. Maybe a little silly still… I don’t know. I like my work.

KM: I love when things that start out of places of desperation truly come to be big markers of personal growth (growth is a big theme around here, too). The other component of Shake Well is obviously the asthma. How does asthma play into your life? What’s your asthma story?
BV: Well, I’ve had asthma for 22 years, I’m 24 years old now. My mom and dad separately tell me little horror stories about my wheezing and doing constant nebulizer treatments and having to go to the hospital and whatnot when I was a baby. I’m so glad they’re good parents! But yeah, it’s an every day thing for me.. I’ve always got an inhaler with me wherever I go. Thankfully I don’t have to use it all of the time but it is something that I need at least once a day. It’s Advair before I go to bed and depending on how I feel when I wake up, maybe in the morning. You learn to make allowances for yourself and learn what you need to do for your particular case. I have allergies as well so I take claritin, allegra or zyrtec most days. Vacuuming often, air purifier, keeping things clean, trying to be active but not to over do it (I have “sports induced” asthma) – that’s a big part of my life.

KM: I think there is a lot to be said about the balancing act that can be asthma and everyday life–and, I think

Our Lungs – Art by Brandon Vosika.

being a young adult only complicates things as per usual!  To connect the asthma to the art . . . What made you decide to create Shake Well Before Use?
BV: I decided to do the paintings about asthma after I had a bad attack and was forced to visit the ER. My week or so of recovery was a good time for the art to form. I realized that almost no one was making art about a disease I’ve had all my life and that over 300 million other people have around the world.. I decided to try and change that.

KM: That’s fantastic. It also alludes to something I often mention (do we share a brain and not know it? :)) in that “10% of the population has this disease . . . but where are they?”. Sometimes I feel like nobody is really doing anything about asthma–that’s why projects like Shake Well that literally paint asthma in a different light are so fantastic.
Aside from watercolour, what other mediums do you like using? Are you into any other types of art other than visual arts?
BV: Watercolor with pen or pencil is the medium I use the most but second to that would be mixed media collage. Using anything from sawed/sanded/painted wood to antique magazine or paper clippings to paint and ink. I also enjoy a little sculpting, recording music, writing and general crafting.
Film and music are two definite passions of mine. I work in a record/movie store for a day job. I love new stuff, older movies, strange film bits.. I wont go into it but cinema is gorgeous. Music is as well obviously. Nearly every young person these days seems to live for music though so that seems boring even if it is the case. I love music!
KM: Completely true on the music thing–I’ve definitely encountered that too! Of course, there’s a big difference between simply being “into” music, and being a musician and creating music! What other things do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
BV: As life goes by you find new things to spend your time doing. you leave the old behind and start with the new. It’s the things that are always with you that really matter, I think. I spend my time painting, appreciating film and music, hanging out with good friends and trying to travel a little. Oh and time is spent helping customers at work (where I also get to hang out with friends all day). KM: Sounds like a great way to live :]. I have a similar work situation in which work is almost as fun as not work! Wrapping up with a little philosophizing here, what’s your favourite quote?
BV: “Life is great. Without it, you’d be dead.” -From the movie Gummo.


Images used with permission from Brandon.

Want to learn more about Brandon’s project and give him a hand? You can back his Kickstarter project for as little as $1, and receive cool incentives from $5–at as low as $20 you’ll receive a copy of the art book upon completion–I am very excited to receive mine!

Learn more about the project by visiting the Kickstarter page.

World Asthma Day was last Tuesday, and I am extremely frustrated that I missed it being in the hospital. I missed my five-year asthma-versary being sick. As for my World Asthma Day post, here it is. Late and without the buzz surrounding World Asthma Day.

But you know what? The first Tuesday in May or not, it still matters. It matters as much as it did on the day that it was created, and it will matter as much as it does until this stupid disease is cured. I feel asthma as both a blessing and a curse, but the reality is, I would probably be a different person without it–and I honestly don’t think i would be a better person without it.  And I certainly would be missing a lot of amazing friends without it.

On World Asthma Day, though, at 3 AM PDT (5 AM CDT), from hospital rooms 3,035 kilometers apart in two different countries, through e-mails my friend Steve and I decreased the distance for moments at a time, as he dealt with a lot of hardcore shit at the same time as he was hospitalized yet again because of his asthma.  Steve is not only the guy who is half responsible for my perspective on living with asthma being how it is, because of all he’s taught me and all he’s walked through with me . . . but because it’s when he gets sick, it’s also when I get the angriest about this stupid disease and the reality of the impact it can have on people. Yet, Steve’s story also contains a lot of positivity. As does mine.

There are echoes of conversations I’ve had with many people in this video–with Steve, with Jay, with Natasha and Elisheva and many others.  And now, I’ll share them here.

Because I have the ability to change my own world. And having asthma doesn’t change that.

The guest posts will resume this week, and I am really excited to share them with everybody. Have an asthma story to share? E-mail me at kerriontheprairies [at] gmail [dot] com.

Got a slew of appointments over with this past week. While I hate having them all piled up, it’s nice to know that I get a bit more of a break. I had ophthalmology two weeks ago, and things are still the same–with ophthalmology, that is really all you want to hear.

Tuesday was asthma clinic. My current respirologist is awesome. I originally got into her to try to get into a research study, but the specific program folded (or so it seems), so she has just morphed into my asthma doctor. Did the PFTs, gave my list to the clinic nurse, and got herded into another room so the doctor could stick things in my nose (I’m on intranasal steroids, but they have been a bit less than perfect lately). Apparently there were issues in there, so I have to go to the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor–boo. I’m also supposed to start doing saline rinses before snorting the steroids [hah. Badassmatic at its finest].  I tried my first sinus rinse today and aside from spraying saline all over the bathroom, I couldn’t do it right and I hated it and it felt icky.

Nobody seemed to care too much about my exercise tolerance being kind of sucky, so I suppose I am working on that myself. Which kind of means I need to exercise.  We swapped my Symbicort over for a newer combination inhaler, Zenhale. It has a stupid name, but I hate the delivery device of Symbicort, so I am back in happy MDI+spacer land. The hope is that after a few more days on Zenhale I can start trying to [successfully] lower my Qvar, which has been my magic medicine. Fingers crossed!  My PFTs were good, but medicated I think they were my lowest to date. The numbers are still nothing to complain about!  My best PFTs ever, my FEV1 was 111%ish (how much air is forced out of your lungs on the first second of expiration), and my FEF 25-75% was 90% [this number is how well the small airways are working]. Tuesday’s PFTs, FEV1 – 95%, FVC (forced vital capacity) was 90%, and FEF 25-75% was 74%. Still excellent, still (aside from some indicated obstruction in the small airways) normal. But, especially that 74%, reminding me that things are not perfect. But . . . they are good! (FEF 25-75% becomes abnormal under 65% according to Googleyness).  I am doing really well on the Zenhale so far . . . so fingers crossed it stays this way!

Wednesday I was back getting tests of my head done–some Individual Achievement Test thing. I was outsted for not knowing my multiplication tables, and then I redeemed myself because I can spell well. This test will take about a month to score. And I still don’t know why they were doing that one. The ADHD assessment part is complete, so this test was something totally different [for what I have no idea], but with that the results are not pointing them either to a definite yes or a definite no. Thus, my mom is going in to answer questions or something soon to see if she can give them any information that I couldn’t.  Tuesday’s tests were also accompanied by some random school-related questions that I was not expecting (What’s your GPA? How many credit hours have you completed so far? Do you have any accommodations for tests? Are you distracted during tests? Do you have enough time? So, other than getting the big picture, I am not sure what that was about…).  It is a very long process, but, I think it will, in the end, be worth it and I am happy that it clearly appears that they are doing the most thorough job possible. It will probably be another month before I know anything more (I was hoping to know much sooner than that what the results of the assessment were). To everybody who has sent me some encouraging words about this process, thank you so much. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have your words in the comment form, in tweets and Facebook messages and e-mails.

Thursday I saw my primary care doctor. Nothing new, especially since I just had asthma clinic. Re-running the blood work we were supposed to repeat months ago, told her my iron will be no better since I quit taking the pills when I went on prednisone in the Fall so as to not screw me up and also I lost the pills, and she just laughed. I guess if I am not 100% compliant, I am honest, right (She also thought it was funny that when she came in I was like “Sorry, need to put all my electronics away. If I turned my phone off every time I was supposed to in a waiting room, I would never accomplish anything.” She just laughed and was like “That’s fine!”). Anyways, once again, uneventful appointment. Except, I essentially got in shit because both my primary care doctor AND my resp doctor were like “Okay, you need to be back onto two puffs of Zenhale,” (slash Symbicort). I am not a fan of this business, to be completely honest. I was doing really well on one puff twice a day, or so I thought, I don’t know what led them to this decision but they seem to, possibly without even talking to one another, be in cahoots about it (because it seemed that the primary care doctor had not yet heard about how asthma clinic went).

So, just have to go get the vampires to take my blood on Monday, deal with the ENT whenever that happens, and . . . then all of the waiting continues.

mapped out my mind / trying to find / a place that don’t exist […]

things change / and they’re not the way you thought they would be.

things change, addison road

A year or so ago, I combined some words to invent the term badassmatic. Simply, a badass living with asthma. To be used in a sentence: Steve is the epitome of badassmatic.

Today, let’s define it. It is an honour to be the first ever guest-poster at my friend Steve’s blog Breathinstephen!

Please join me over there for some conversation on music, asthma, owning your health . . . and badassery!

I don’t do the halloween costume thing particularly well, but I do love me some tutus.

[And thrifted Threadless tees for $3.99]


And where the inhaler is, nobody knows.