It always starts with the cough. Its the first ‘tell’. Like an aura to a migraine — it’s the harbinger of the badness to come.
Next is the shortness of breath. Subtle. I’ll notice I’m puffing a bit from going DOWN the stairs in my house.
That’s the point in time I break out the meds. All. The. Meds. Neb treatments, prednisone, cough medicine, and even antibiotics. I’ve tried to live without the antibiotics and I end up with bronchitis. So we just go there right from jump and I stay healthier.
Next comes the exhaustion. Breathing starts pulling energy and burning calories. It is no longer something which just occurs. It’s work. And a work out.
After that is the burning. I can now feel exactly where in my body my airway lives. The inflammation has outlined each passage of my trachea and bronchus. I feel the air I pull over them grate like rough sand. With each breath.
And lastly comes the wheezing and tightness. Yep. I’m here. I’m an honest — to — God — asthmatic again. Not just someone who ‘has’ asthma. I’m chest deep in that shit once more.
I’ve learned over the years, if I get to this stage — I’m taking every breath like I’m breathing through a straw. The wheezing and the tightness is when you get the epi pen out of the drawer and you start carrying it around in your pocket next to your phone. It’s the part where you leave your front door unlocked— because you want EMS to be able to get in if you have to call 911 and new doors aren’t cheap. It’s where you make sure your GPS location setting on your phone is set to ‘ON’ so that in the middle of that 911 call if you DFO (done fall out) they can still find you.
You are more in fear of dying from your asthma than you are of burglars or rapists coming through that unlocked front door.
In one day I can take enough benadryl to put an elephant to sleep, and it still won’t counteract the effects of the steroids I choke down and the albuterol I suck in.
However, losing sleep and sitting upright to rest is a blessing to me. Here’s my silver lining: As I walked down my stairs tonight (short of breath — again) I thought about all the people who have had asthma before the meds I’m taking existed. They lived like this right up until they died like this.
How hard a life that must have been? And how gruesome a death?
I am blessed many times over to live in a place and time where I can just take the meds and wait for them to work. One generation ago it was not that simple. I have two uncles — my father’s younger brothers — who both succumbed to asthma. One as an infant and the other as a young adult.
I got these stats from the AsthmaMD website:
Every day in America:
- 40,000 people miss school or work due to asthma.
- 30,000 people have an asthma attack.
- 5,000 people visit the emergency room due to asthma.
- 1,000 people are admitted to the hospital due to asthma.
- 11 people die from asthma.
Every. Single. Day. That’s a lot of people. Most people don’t think of asthma as fatal these days. But it is. Even with all our great meds — people like me still die.
The same website also said asthma was a contributing factor in another 7,000 deaths a year. I know I’m a greater anesthesia risk for any kind of surgery because of my asthma. Also when you don’t breath right, it affects your other organs, like your heart.
AsthmaMD also said this: ‘There are more than 4,000 deaths due to asthma each year, many of which are avoidable with proper treatment and care.”
I’ll stop boring you with statistics now. Thanks for hanging in with me through that.
The important thing with any chronic illness is to understand it. And be kind to yourself when you are having exacerbations. Let you body rest and do what you need to do to get back to baseline. We live in a ‘push through the pain’ society and that is just bull shit. That’s why we have 4,000 people a year dying from this stuff. They push through, don’t seek proper care, don’t rest, don’t go to the MD to get the meds, etc…
An exacerbation is just that. Recognize it — heal yourself — and move on. When you’re well, enjoy your life to the fullest, because you just never know when this stuff will come around again. That’s the other side of the coin.
When you are not sick — you have to let go of the chronic disease shingle you might want outside your front door. The love, care, and attention from all the people in your world is really great when you really need it. But — don’t live there. Your mental and spiritual health will suffer if you keep the “I’m sick” narrative on repeat too long.
I know — so again with the balance thing. But it’s deeper than that. This is huge — listen to your body. We are so detached from our bodies in this culture. Most women I know outright hate theirs. And they hate them even more when they have the nerve to cause said women inconveniences — like getting sick. No one has time for that bull shit. But we get sick(er) because we don’t listen. And then we’re so exhausted and so in need of care we over stay our welcome in the land of illness.
Let your body tell you when She’s sick. Let your soul tell you when She’s healthy. I have asthma. Asthma, however, does not have me.