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.
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.
Ventoline and Symbicort, my inhalers.
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.
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: Alana.io