[note: Kerri is one of the most knowledgable person I know! She knows so much about asthma, you can ask her anything, if she doesn’t know the answer off the top of her head, I can guarantee you that she will find the answer really quickly. Kerri also writes my favourite blog (see the bottom of this post) which I have been following for years! Love the blog Kerri!]
I’m coming up on five years since my asthma diagnosis. So here I am on MyLungsMyLife, taking a step back and reflecting on that journey, and what transpired within that journey over the distance to here . . . to get me where I am now. (If you know me, you’ll know I am constantly filled with quotes from songs and am heavily influenced by music. If you know the band Live, you’ll know that I ripped off The Distance to Here from their album of the same name.)
At this point, I feel the diagnosis journey that at one point defined so much of my asthma story is nearly inconsequential—it is more about the now, than the then. My asthma story currently is less about me, and more about creating change. An origin story is an origin story, and though it may be life altering, it is not life ending, nor does it have to be life defining. Asthma has helped shape the choices I have made, and has, I believe, made me more compassionate and more willing to modify my own perceptions with the hope of altering the perceptions of those around me.
At sixteen, it is easy to feel invincible. It’s also easy to feel invincible five years later at twenty-one (it’s easier yet to cue up 21 and Invincible by Something Corporate: “We’re 21 and invincible / Can’t wait to screw this up / And I’m in power for the hour / I guess today’s gonna blow us away.”). It’s easy to brush off that something may be wrong following a choir performance where your lungs feel tight. It’s easy to accept a bronchitis diagnosis and take a couple rounds of antibiotics. It’s not easy when those don’t work, and then spend the next six weeks, including four days in Chicago, not feeling well. It’s not so easy to return to the doctor with no improvement and tell him “This is not bronchitis, and we need to get this under control.” It’s not easy to spend six months taking Ventolin multiple times a day because it is the only option available and the waiting to acquire a family doctor continues.
After I finally got a family doctor, it took three specialists, multiple medications, and a lot of frustration and perseverance, as well as support from the online community to get my asthma into something resembling control. I currently take three maintenance inhalers, use a Ventolin inhaler when needed, and have access to both a nebulizer and prednisone for when things get sticky (there are few things I hate more than prednisone, but I know when it’s time to pull out the big guns)—I also have rhinitis, for which I take nasal steroids (and am supposed to do saline rinses, but hey, I never claimed to be perfect).
The distance to here: it’s been a long time coming. On April 28th, 2013, I’ll have hit my 1826th day living with asthma. Five years of inhalers, nebs and frustrations may be among the negatives, but they in no way can cover the goodness that has also crossed my path. Asthma has also meant five years of friends I’d have never met without this disease; five years of learning more about my body and myself; five years of discovery—in myself and of the world, and five years of learning—five years and many things that would not have happened had I not had asthma.
As I write this 1821 days after my diagnosis, I perceive so much differently than I ever thought I would. I know that I am in control of my perceptions, even if I am not in control of my circumstances. I know that I make the choice to see my asthma as only a speed bump, but not a roadblock. I have changed so much, and mostly for the better—I am more in touch with my own body, and I do my best to keep it healthy instead of taking it for granted. I started exercising more regularly within a year of my diagnosis, and while it is in no way easy, it is so worth it. The perceptions I have that changed since my asthma diagnosis launched me into a couple of my current major pursuits: majoring in Kinesiology and Applied Health, volunteering as a member of the Asthma Society of Canada’s National Asthma Patient Alliance Executive Committee (try saying that five times fast!). This cohesion has helped me comprehend a bit better about the interaction between my body, mind, emotions, asthma, and the rest of the chaos that creates life, enabling me to understand not only myself better, but also understand those around me better, meet them where they’re at to help them go the distance . . . and realize the distance to here that we have all encountered in our own journeys . . . to be in charge of our own realities.
Life’s not perfect after diagnosis—but really, it wasn’t perfect before either. Asthma may be incurable, but we are every bit as resilient as our circumstances attempt to be. Learn all you can, live passionately, and don’t ever regret a single moment . . . because it is all a part of what is helping you reach where you are supposed to be. The distance to here is not any specific place . . . it is about owning the current moment: every aspect of it.
Kerri is a twenty-one year-old university student with a passion for asthma education, adapted physical activity, patient empowerment, wellness, and taking ownership of chronic disease with special interest in adolescent populations. Inventor of the term “badassmatic”, she fully believes that “perspective is crucial, positivity is essential, and ignorance is a curable disease”.
Kerri blogs at Kerri on the Prairies, can be found on Twitter at @__kerri (with two underscores to be complicated), and via her Facebook fan page.