My story of living and dealing with asthma.

My story of living and dealing with asthma

I’ve been an asthmatic since as long as I can remember. I was born with it, I grew up with it and I’ll grow old with it. It’s part of my life. It’s part of who I am. I want to share part of my story, using three topics that have been central in my battle with asthma: inhalers, needles and technology. 

I. Inhalers

On a rainy day, almost twenty years ago, I was diagnosed with asthma. Back then I didn’t really know what that diagnosis meant, the only thing I understood was that I had to take inhalers twice a day. They looked scary and tasted awful, and I didn’t want to come near them. Sometimes people told me I would get rid of the disease, that I would magically become healthy again. They gave me hope.

But over the years my lungs only became weaker. They started to hurt when I was running, biking or swimming. I had to stop taking part in certain school activities, such as physical education. I had to be careful when riding my bike. I had to sleep with a rescue inhaler. And I started to appreciate the medication more. They helped me bike and win. They postponed the pain. They saved me during asthma attacks. But I didn’t manage to get rid of the disease, instead my condition became progressively worse.

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Ventoline and Symbicort, my inhalers.

II. Needles

By the time I turned 15 I wasn’t able to climb stairs anymore. Walking from the living room to my bedroom had become a heavy workout. The inhalers and the pills didn’t do their job anymore, so I was started on a new type of medication. Injections this time. Four a month, over the course of more than two years. It was scary in the beginning. The injections, spending my afternoons in the hospital surrounded by old smokers. But I got used to it. The medication turned out to be effective. It worked. In fact, my lungs improved so drastically that for a couple of years I didn’t need any type of medication anymore. I made it all the way through college without needing my inhalers. I got hope again.

When I moved to Oslo, mid 2014, asthma didn’t mean anything more to me than just a blue rescue inhaler I had to take with me when travelling. I went for long walks in the forest on a daily basis. My apartment was on the fifth floor, without an elevator, and I even managed to run up and down those stairs without a problem. I felt so alive. For the first time I even started to wonder if I in fact had been cured. I started to wonder if I was finally healthy. If I got over it, just like they used to tell me I would.

III. Technology

Winter 2014 came along and all hell broke loose. I started wheezing again. I started coughing again. I experienced shortness of breath. So I started taking both of my inhalers again. Nothing helped. Again, climbing the stairs to my bedroom had become a workout. My lungs would never magically heal itself. My asthma would never get cured. I’ll have my ups and downs. There will be months marked by pain and coughing, followed by periods of normality. Some months will be filled with coughing syrup, pills and inhalers, others filled with yoga and midnight walks to the forest. Everyone has their own little box filled with problems, and mine happens to include asthma.

That first winter in Norway I also realised that I would be stuck with this disease for the rest of my life. There’s no escape. And I realised that if that was the case, I wanted to be educated better. I wanted to learn how to deal with this disease in a better way. One of the things I did was keeping a list of foods that trigger asthma symptoms for me, but I never really figured out a pattern there.

Screenshots of Asthmatic.

What I did find out, however, was how big of an influence the weather had on my lungs. My doctor first brought it to my attention. And then i started noticing it too. Cold air made me cough and humid air made it difficult for me to breathe. So I started reading more about the topic, and adapted my lifestyle accordingly. Then, I started keeping an eye on the weather forecast. And it helped. I still had asthma symptoms from time to time, but at least I could minimise those caused by the weather. After almost a year of handling my asthma predictions by reading online weather forecasts, I started looking for an app that could do this for me. And when I didn’t find any app like that, I created one myself. It’s called Asthmatic and calculates how bad your asthma symptoms will be based on the weather.

Right now I’m doing fine. But maybe my symptoms will come back again. Maybe my medication will stop working again. Maybe I’ll have another few years of hell ahead of me. Or maybe I’ll be able to live a normal life. Maybe I’ll keep making apps to improve the lives of asthmatics. Or maybe I’ll start a support group. Or maybe I won’t do anything at all. The truth is, I don’t know what the future will bring. But I do know that I’ll be able to handle it.

I’d like to dedicate this blogpost to my regular pulmonologist, who passed away last year. She was the best doctor imaginable, and helped me overcome a lot. 

Cover picture: Gratisography.com

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24 Comments

  1. Dear Sarah,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. Lindsay over at Letters to Dutch recommended your site to me. I just read your story, “My Story of Living and Dealing With Asthma.” It’s so honest and beautifully written. I think it would make a wonderful youshare, because I believe others living with asthma would connect with your story and find comfort in your words. It will also give friends and family members of those living with asthma a glimpse into what life with asthma can be like.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to adapt your story to Youshare and share it with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.

    Best,
    Ashlee
    http://www.youshareproject.com
    ashlee@youshareproject.com

    1. Hi Ashlee,
      I’m definitely up for that. I’m on a multi-day trip with work right now, but I’ll mail you as soon as I can! 🙂
      Sarah

      1. Thanks for your reply, Sarah! I responded to your email and look forward to continuing our conversation when you’re back from your trip. All best, Ashlee

  2. As somebody who has been dealing with asthma since I was 5 (I am 21 now) I can completely relate to this post. There are rescue inhalers everywhere in my house and one in ever bag that I own. The weather does effect me, especially when one season changes into the next. I loved reading this and to know that there is somebody out there who understands the life we go through.Beautiful.

  3. Hi, Unfotunately my mum suffers from asthma. I have seen her struggling night after night. at times even one inhaler doesnt help and she has to resort to steroids . We have de humidifier and air purifier working at our place 24/7 so that she can breathe properly. I can understand how you must feel.

  4. I’ve had asthma since i was four years old, it’s such a horrible illness I really feel for you. I’m on Ventolin inhalers and a ‘brown’ reviler. I’m often on steroids & antibiotics because I catch every chest infection going. I do notice however that when I’m on holiday or by the coast my asthma improves slightly it’s kind of weird.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 xx

  5. I can relate to your post!! I’ve a really close friend who is asthmatic and I always see him taking of every little thing around him to deal with it. Thanks for sharing your story!! Such a great read!! 🙂

  6. I have asthma too. Since I moved from Indonesia to England it gets better. I guess the air is clearer here. It only come back to me if there is dust. Great post by the way.

  7. Lovely post… Everyome trult has one challenge or the other which they are facing but the key is trying hard to overcome and not letting anything or anyone bring you down…. Its bound to get better

  8. I know how you feel… in a way. I don’t have asthma, but I do have daily headaches since I was 5. The problem in my case is that no one knows why they occur or how to stop them.
    I’m glad that you feel better now and I hope that will continue for as long as possible, without any complications.

  9. I really appreciate your candid sharing of your fight with asthma, this would definitely be of help to many who are living with Asthma.

  10. Wow thank you for sharing this. I always find that asthma is not taken as seriously as other conditions, especially in school. I’m so sorry that you’ve had such a difficult experience and how it’s affected your life 😔 but it’s so great that you have turned it into something positive that can help others! I’ll make sure to share the app with my boyfriend since he has recently been diagnosed with asthma. It’s not as bad as yours but it might get worse in the future so I think he will really appreciate this app and someone taking their time to create a tool to help others ☺️ I really hope it stays manageable for you thanks to your discovery! x