May is Asthma Awareness Month–and this coming Tuesday is World Asthma Day. After spending a couple days together in the SF Bay Area last week, Steve and I got our networks to send out some questions, and did a very unstructured Q&A videocast to hopefully get some light shed on asthma, our thoughts, and hopefully teach some people a few new things about this disease.
To wrap up Asthma Awareness Month, I thought it would be interesting to vlog a day with asthma to give an idea of what things can be like. Though I’ve been sharing guest posts from my friends with asthma, they capture the big picture but not the finer details of the day to day intricacies of living with a chronic disease.
Asthma, though, can look immensely different from day to day and from person to person. I am extremely thankful for the willingness of some of my friends to rise up and join me in sharing what a day in their lives with asthma looks like (and, on very short notice)–and of course, if anybody else wants to contribute, by all means, please fire a video off to me!
Super special thanks to Steve for getting a video off to me on really short notice!
Steve and I filmed these in an overlapping block of time, so we really had no idea what the other person was doing. However, our perspectives really overlap in certain parts of these videos, which just blew my mind. Steve has really severe asthma, but if you know any part of his story, you’ll know that he truly rolls with it, does what he has to, and lives a really vibrant and active life regardless of his asthma.
However, despite “asthma” sharing a common name, and Steve and I having common passions . . . you will see that Steve’s day is dramatically different from mine.
(By the way, I’m convinced Steve is a pro video blogger in disguise. And I think he needs to do this more often. Also, Steve, I like your hoodie.)
Asthma: it’s a six letter catch-all.
It can have a host of symptoms from coughing, to shortness of breath, to wheezing, to chest tightness.
It can be asymptomatic, or relatively mild, or severe enough to require treatment in the intensive care unit.
It can be treated with inhalers and nebs, pills and injections.
It can affect somebody for two minutes a year, or twenty four hours a day.
It can be anything but simple, and there is no such thing as typical.
But most importantly . . .
It can be owned,
it can be lived with
. . . and it can be thrived with.
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!
Through this magic thing called the Internet, I’ve had the joy of being able to meet a plethora of amazing people, a number which amplified massively in the last few months. Over the last week, I got to spend 9 hours with one of my favourite people on the planet. My friend Steve–also known as Epic Steve or Breathin’ Stephen–was in Winnipeg en route up north to embark on a wicked adventure: a polar bear tour in Churchill, Manitoba [had I figured early enough that I probably would have been able to cram this in with school, I would have totally gone with him!]. His blog post is absolutely incredible–lots of amazing pictures and video clips, and while he’s still in the process of adding to it, it is a must read.
I barely gave Steve time to step out into the cold before I showed up at his hotel on Monday afternoon, where we immediately began talking non-stop and trekked outside to get him a little more oriented to the Land of Canada–at this point, he took a picture of a snow pile, which totally cracked me up–I suppose that is a task that a Californian has to do on his first trip to Canada. We wandered while weighing out our food options and ended up getting on a bus, and then getting off at the Subway [which, turns out is probably the sketchiest Subway in the city from what I was told later. Ah, Winnipeg.]
Unlike me, Steve can actually properly tie a scarf. Seriously, look how well he pulls off being a Canadian, right down to the name Stephen Gaudet! :]
As Steve has said before “We couldn’t be more different, but it seems to work.” And, that it does! We’ve both got a ridiculous amount of energy, and despite all the “different”, have so much more in common than I think we’d even realized when we connected through our blogs three-and-a-half years ago. We headed back to his hotel and talked non-stop for another couple hours about everything under the sun. (To underscore our combined inability to stop talking, my grandparents picked me up and we walked into the lobby and my grandma greeted us with “All I can hear from down the hall is jabber jabber jabber jabber jabber! Hello Stephen!” See also: my grandma is awesome.) Oh, also he stopped and made fun of me every time I said “out” or “about”, and then I tried to figure out what makes how Canadians say them so amusing to non-Canadians and I still have no freaking Idea, eh?
I met Steve downtown at the bus stop the next morning after he had apparently hit it off with the bus driver who hailed from England, and got a guided tour of the bus route and chatted it up about Churchill (the travel experiences this man has are full of amazing, I tell you).
Photo credit to Steve.
His Picasa caption says “Partners in Crime”. This dude and I are out to change the world. I think this is my new favourite picture of us–actually the Twin Peaks one still wins I think. Because awesome.
My mom picked us up and drove us to the train station [and thus finally met Steve after all of my talking!] where we proceeded to be touristy and take pictures.
At this point, I was getting more and more tempted to just get on that train–forget packing and whatnot! After we checked Steve’s bags, we went to The Forks, which is essentially the only thing to do in Winnipeg [okay, maybe the zoo, except not so much in November].
I think this lead to this picture.
Like a kid in a candy . . . Oh wait, it was a candy store. Using Canadian money and all that. [Did you note that the $5 bills have hockey players on them? We don’t miss a beat, eh?]
[I just noticed the big open barrel of Jelly Bellies. I’m not sure of my feelings on the open-ness of it all ;)]
About this time a) Steve told me we had to leave the market so he’d stop buying things, and b) my grandma chased us down because she made Steve cookies for the train (see also: my grandma is awesome.) Then we went to play in Explore Manitoba Centre.
Except if we were in the snow, you don’t get much more Manitoba than this. We’re like an MTS commercial.
He’s getting amped, while I’m taking pictures of him taking pictures again.
[If you change your focus from the bear to his shoes, I would like to bring to your attention that as we were galavanting through the snow on Monday night he was making fun of the fact that I was wearing running shoes. Ahem, rockstar?]
Okay, time to get goofy:
I think it was at exactly this point that it was determined that Steve and I need to travel together, because it would be pure amazing. And out of control all the time. :] Can you guess who’s idea this was?
Okay back to the snow!
[Photo credit to Steve]
After this point we simmered down (a bit, I’m unsure either of us ever simmer down too much), and went and hung out in the train station and talked for probably another hour before his train left. Even all these hours adding up are never enough time! And, trust me, Steve, I know you made that comment about how I’m always playing hooky whenever I see you, but I’m pretty sure I learned more, and more useful things, hanging out with you then I would have being at school.
Here’s a blurry BlackBerry photo in the legit train waiting area:
Steve: Why do you look so pale and I look like I have a tan?
Me: Because you’re from California, and I’m from . . . here.
And from there [after we people-watched for awhile and talked non-stop as has become our pattern] he went off to the Great[er] White[r] North!
[Also it has just occurred to me that I need to fix the situation that I do not own a plaid scarf. Whoa.]
On Sunday, I met up with Steve at his hotel to see him off at the airport [and my grandma sent more cookies–Steve makes friends everywhere, as evidenced by his Churchill adventure post!] at 8:30 (on the dot!). He gave me a sneak peek at some of the beautiful polar bear video footage, and told me about the awesome experience of his flight back to Winnipeg, and more Churchill stories. After awhile we headed over to the airport, where the United people were not at their desk and thus had to feel the wrath of my tweeting :]
(The United people were all kind of milling about and not being productive at the time of the last tweet. We got all stoked that somebody was coming, and as if she sensed our excitement decided she was going to fake us out and left to pee before she started actually working. False hope!)
As Steve learned, I am also unable to navigate my own airport [okay in reality I think he learned I am not really able to navigate much of anywhere, like when I made a wrong turn getting from the train station to the Forks Market. Honestly, they are across the parking lot]. And we found the Starbucks too late. Oh well, guess we’ll have to caffeinate the Starbucks way next time! However, had we found the Starbucks we would have a) spent more money and b) not had Steve’s first Tim Horton’s experience, so there is that. :]
We spent some time, to steal Steve’s phrase from his blog post, “plotting out our next adventure” over coffee, which will surely be wild if our last two adventures have been any indication! Except, eventually we’ll have to take on a new geographic area for both of us :]. And . . . before we knew it we were sitting on the floor outside security where Steve was filling out a Customs card and I was pimping his inhaler with checkered duct tape [Hey, MTV — pimp my inhaler? You dig?] and he headed off back to the US.
Also, please tell Steve that he does not look stoned in this picture :].
An unlikely pair? You know it. We may have a plethora of differences, but we also totally click, and sometimes it still blows my mind, even after spending 14.5 hours with Steve in the last couple months (after ‘knowing’ him three years!). As I’ve said before “We became friends because of asthma, we stayed friends because of awesome.” and that certainly holds true here. Steve has helped me navigate a myraid of situations, sparked me into new things [have I mentioned here that the fact that I actually get some degree of physical activity, have done some races, and therefore became a kinesiology major is in part his fault? Because it is. If that doesn’t say good influence, I don’t know what does!], has ultimately taught me basically all the smart things I know about asthma (and, might I add, basically figured out how to try getting my asthma into control from 3,000 kilometers away). . . and in the process of all that goodness, we’ve had hundreds of good talks (also a lot of ridiculous!) and both good and not-so-good experiences along the way. And, certainly with the friendship we have now, all that, all that has lead to these crazy shared experiences, cannot be “coincidence”. (Well, I don’t believe in coincidence, but that’s beside the point).
Steve, it was awesome seeing you again. Let’s figure out a way to get our paths to cross again soon, yes? I think we’ve got some world-changing trouble to make. Or, you know, simply a lot of good times to have! (And ice cream, coffee related drinks, touristy picture taking and YouTube travel documentaries!)
Now the rest of you, if you haven’t yet, go read about the bears on Steve’s blog!
I’m currently at 39,854 feet elevation, flying above the most Northern part of California at 504 miles per hour. It will take a series of blog posts to get down my full thoughts on the experience of this weekend in Palo Alto, California for the Medicine-X conference at Stanford University. There are so many stories, experiences and connections to touch on, and while they have all been amazing, the first thing I need to do is introduce my friend Steve, aka a million different nicknames but mostly the (famous :]) Breathin’ Stephen.
Steve and I have been friends through the world of blogging since pretty early on in my asthma journey. He hates when I say it [but I’ll say it anyway :)], but he’s one of my biggest inspirations, and quite honestly, my hero. He often describes us as “The Ultimate Odd Couple”, which could not be closer to the truth; however, there is this ridiculous bond that somehow ended up forming between us in the last three years–Ultimate Odd Couple or not, we totally click, and that just solidified in California.
Much to my own surprise, I didn’t get all teary on him at the airport on Thursday like I thought I would when we finally found each other in the International Arrivals area [I was only there like four minutes, Steve, I swear. Calling you was easier than being confused–your airport is confusing :).] From the airport, Steve took me on a whirlwind tour of San Francisco [my flight was delayed an hour and a half from Vancouver because of the fog in SF, so we didn’t get to see as much as we had hoped to].
First stop was Twin Peaks.
I need to come back to SF when there is less fog, but the view was still amazing. [And no, we did not plan to coordinate our shorts, we just kind of matched because we are amazing.]
Check out this view:
[Photo Credit to Steve]
This one’s my favourite:
[Photo Credit to Steve. Or the garbage can or whatever we used to balance the camera on ;). He’s the one who set up this shot though.]
Giant Pride flag! LOVE.
I swear we’re on the Golden Gate Bridge, even though I didn’t even really actually see it. That fog is intense.
[Photo credit to Steve]
Look at that fog!
Having a native San Franciscian as your tour guide means you get to become aware of things like the Yellow Submarine House.
It’s by Ocean Beach :].
[Photo Credit to Steve]
Steve gets a true Kerri Pose on the beach!
After the beach [where Steve made fun of me for running away from the water, I might add. Dude. I didn’t want to get my awesome shoes wet!)], we grabbed some pizza in Steve’s old neigbourhood [the dudes in there know him, it is unreal and the pizza was awesome :)] and made the journey to my hotel in Palo Alto. [Oh, and he brought me the GOOD KIND of animal cookies!! 🙂 They are awesome!] Unlike what we expected though, the story didn’t end there.
Sidebar explanation. Because, it makes the story make more sense but needs to be a sidebar so as not to detract form all the goodness above.
The unfortunate part is that I got kind of sick in California. I had a bit of a rough time breathing on my first flight on Thursday, but nothing I couldn’t deal with [utilizing entirely too many puffs of the inhaler, but, you do what you have to when you’re at 38,000 feet]. I was good on the second flight and thought it was just some weird short-lived, perfume and/or stress induced thing. First solo trip = stressful, yo. By “kind of sick“, however, I mean that whether whatever it was that triggered the flight mini-flare persisted or something else triggered me in Palo Alto or prior to getting there, I’ll never know, but I essentially ended up having the worst asthma exacerbation I’ve had in the last two and a half years while in California. Cruddy timing, lungs. With a little help from my friends, I am usually pretty good at staying on top of things and getting back to baseline pretty quickly [and, being away from home made me deal with it more quickly]. If I’m going to, for whatever reason, get sick in a state I’ve never been to before, California was an okay place to have it happen. Steve is a Respiratory Therapist [and, though I was able to dissuade him, was more than willing to make the trek back to Palo Alto to bring me anything I needed (for instance, like the freaking nebulizer power cord I forgot at home) and has stupid crazy severe asthma (is that a good medical descriptor? Badassmatic, yo). He actually brought me nebulizer meds at the airport because I wasn’t sure if mine would be apprehended at security for being not labeled (they weren’t)]. I always carry prednisone with me when I travel and I’ve never needed to break into it before, but I was extremely thankful to have the steroids with me.
Anyways, Steve was all over taking care of me from two hours away, checking in by phone several times and just generally being awesome–my personal Respiratory Therapist! For those wanting the details on the whole asthma situation, I managed to turn the worst of it around with a fair amount of Ventolin/Atrovent [both in the inhalers and in the nebs Steve gave me] and by starting prednisone. With the prednisone, since I hadn’t been on it in 2.5 years [go me!] I really had absolutely no idea how it was going to affect my body. Which, happened to be completely different than it has the last two times. Because I was concerned about flying home with my lungs all tight and uncomfortable, after some discussion, I threw back 50 mg splitting the dose in two on Friday, 40 mg Saturday, 35 mg Sunday, and so on. Whether it was starting 10 mg higher than I did last time or just the fact that I haven’t been on it in forever, while it turned my breathing around rapidly within about 24 hours [aka no longer coughing awkwardly through the Asthmapolis discussion], I ended up getting the stupid emotional side-effects of the medication and honestly just kept tearing up/fighting back tears at the most random intervals. [Honestly, somebody said something nice or unexpected or whatever to me, I was in tears, it was ridiculous. It also made me super hungry–Medicine X was a good place to be on prednisone because there are healthy snacks every hour and a half and thus, unlike the last time I was on prednisone, I had no “I just drank a slurpee and ate a Reese’s chocolate bar and that does not mix well with pred tummy” feelings ;)]. Between some sleeplessness, whether breathing or steroid-induced, the prednisone-induced thirst and the needing-to-eat-all-the-effing-time thing, yeah, the pred sucks, but the effect it had on my breathing was so worth it. As I was writing this on Sunday, I’m not perfect yet, but so much better than I was, was correct, but yesterday’s flight adventure gave me a little backslide [regardless: so much better than I would have been had I not taken the prednisone]. I am freaking tired between the busy schedule, the craziness of the trip and the screwing up of my sleep pattern induced by the steroids [and now, after seeing the doctor, I am off school/work until Thursday and doing some gradual prednisone taper crap. Not what I expected to say the least.]
///End non-Steve related digression :].///
This [Sunday] morning was the ultimate in seeing Steve’s compassion in action, though. We’ve covered I’m not good with prednisone [I don’t think anybody really is], but I’m also not good with not having concrete plans–the combination of them was not good. This morning, the intent was my friend Katie was going to pick me up from the hotel and take me to the airport via Rancho San Antonio for a walk [walk would have been no bueno anyways]. Long story short, miscommunications happened due to some unforeseen circumstances, and I basically freaked out when I couldn’t get a hold of her this morning [see also: um, going to blame the prednisone]. My friend Christina had also offered to drive me to the airport, but apparently prednisone + miscommunication = hysterics. I was so stressed out this morning which prompted me to send Steve a message in some fashion I can’t remember. After some back-and-forth for about an hour where I hadn’t resolved anything with either of my rides, and without any hesitation, Steve got in the car and came back to Palo Alto to take me to the airport [Read: bestest friend ever]. In this time, Katie got a hold of me, and we just ended up meeting at the hotel for a bit which Steve joined us for. Long story short, I am extremely appreciative and thankful for Steve’s willingness to be there for me when I am in stress/prednisone-induced tears on the phone freaking out at 6:30 AM. I honestly cannot say thank you enough. [In all his humility, he is probably going to tell me to take all these nice things down–not a chance, buddy, you are awesome.] Really, these stories only scratch the surface of his awesomeness.
He and I made the drive to the airport, where we hung out and had coffee [read: Steve had coffee. I had Vitamin Water. Prednisone tummy is evil and while I feel hungry, sometimes it’s like a few bites/sips into something and I am just done with it. Fortunately and unfortunately, Steve is all-too-familiar with the prednisone shit, so if I am going to be a bit of a steroid-induced mess around anybody, he’s my guy and put up with me well] for a bit before he sent me off through security to my flight.
I like Steve’s expression in this one, the picture makes me laugh. PhotoBooth caught him off-guard, apparently. Hmm, apparently that was the theme of the weekend ;). See how blue his eyes are?
Yeah, I have the cool friends who will do ridiculous airport photoshoots with me. Actually, I think it was his idea to take more pictures.
Anyways, Steve . . . you are everything awesome I expected you to be and more. I’ve said it about four hundred times, but I really cannot thank you enough for your friendship, for putting up with me and my crazy messages super early in the morning interrupting your bass practicing [and checking in on me and my goofy lungs over the weekend], and your willingness to go out of your way to help me–not just today but countless times in the last three years. Today was just the ultimate show of that, and while you probably just want me to shut up now, I’ll just say it one more time: I can’t even express how much I am thankful and how much I appreciate your friendship because words can’t do it justice. I’m so excited that I finally got to meet you and see your beautiful state! :] Oh, and I promise next time I’m in California I will 1) be able to spend more time with you and 2) hopefully not be sick.
For the rest of you . . . the above [and more] are why I call him Epic Steve.