The last couple of days have been fascinating. I sit here in my New Jersey hotel recapping the experience in my mind as I try to capture it through my keyboard. I am both grateful and hopeful. Grateful for the opportunity to have shared my experiences with severe asthma and how a holistic approach has changed my life, and hopeful about the work that is going on with research and new medications to further the progress. Let’s jump right in with the good stuff.
I arrived at Newark Airport and was greeted at baggage claim by this smiling face.
That’s right. Mmmm hmmm. Who’s a rockstar?! Okay, I know. EVERYONE on this side of the country gets a car to pick them up so they don’t have to drive in the city, but this Pacific Northwest girl felt like a rockstar. Let’s go with it! Walter, thanks so much for the hospitality and showing me the surrounding area. You were a gem! (I hope you’re reading this. I told you your picture would show up here!)
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a short run this morning to clear my head, take in some beautiful east coast fall weather, do some praying, and think about what I might say to this group. I really had no idea what to expect but I was okay to just take a leap of faith, put it all out there, and see what happens. Here is the view I took in while I meditated and thought about how clear my lungs were as I was running; an impossibility just a few years ago.
If you have followed this blog, you know that for most of my life, my asthma ruled it. I hate that they call it a disease, but that’s what it is. I grew up in and out of hospitals, on constant mass doses of “heavy-hitter” medications which ultimately did not control it, much less get to the bottom of the problem, and it only got worse as I got older and my lung started collapsing. You also know that I am stubborn and determined and I would have done anything to be able to live and breathe freely and be able to participate in the adventurous and athletic life to which I am predisposed. Finally, you know that what changed my life was learning about how nutrition is a major contributing factor to truly controlling it. (If you’re just coming across this blog, I encourage you to pop a hearty bowl of popcorn or brew a big pot of awesome coffee, sit back, and start from the beginning). I’ve learned that what we take into our bodies can and does actually FEED our diseases if it’s the wrong stuff. It really isn’t rocket science. Asthma is all about inflammation. So if we KNOW that certain foods cause inflammation and certain supplements reduce it naturally, it seems like a pretty clear picture, doesn’t it? If we can find a way to marry proper nutrition with effective medications, I truly believe we can change the lives of severe asthmatics all over the world. But my progress towards health and knowing what it’s like to live like a normal person without asthma for most of my days was gradual. I still take medications as needed and I still have triggers that render me immobile for days at a time. But that is becoming more and more rare and the need for meds has reduced signficantly and most days, I FORGET I have this. And given that for most of my life, I was prednisone and inhaler dependent, that is no small miracle. It’s huge. That’s what was on my mind as I went into this panel meeting.
I’m not sure I can put the experience into words that will do it justice but here’s my best attempt. We were sourrounded by physicians and scientists from all over the world, all focused on how to improve the quality of life for asthmatics. I was bursting and my emotions were hard to contain. I was so grateful to be in that room with so many focused on the very thing that robbed me of basic breath for so many years. Wow! What impressed me most about this group was that they were genuinely interested in the experiences of the patient panelists. They asked many questions of each of us but the two questions posed to all were, “What is it like to have an asthma attack?” and “If you could have a dream for asthma treatment, what would it be?” Of course, we all agreed that finding a cure is the ultimate dream. Until then, we each had our own response.
Mine will not surprise you. I would love it if treating asthma from a holistic approach was commonplace; that when a person was diagnosed, they would receive not only education on the disease and what to expect and how to know the triggers; not just a bottle of pills, an inhaler and a schedule for taking allergy shots or bi-monthly injections. Let’s automatically add into the equation an education on how certain foods cause inflammation and how nutrients like vitamin D, omega 3s, antioxidants, vitamin C and a good solid probiotic will give the body what it needs at the cellular level so that the need for being rescued is diminished or even eliminated (all researched). It is NOT about having a severely restricted diet. This truly is pretty stinking easy. And it makes so much sense! The only regret I have is that I didn’t discover it earlier.
Still, if all of my years of suffering – all of the hospital visits, the lung collapses, the embarrassing notes to excuse me from PE class, the days of coughing non-stop and disrupting those around me, standing on the sidelines while others played, the sheer panic of not being able to breathe – if all of that was for the purpose of helping just one person out there change their quality of life, I would do it again. I really would.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my fellow panelists. It was surreal listening to other people describe MY experiences. We nodded in agreement at the commonalities in our journeys of struggling for breath and how it has impacted our lives. We also marveled at the diversity of our disease, and how some medication cocktails work for some and not others, among other diversities. Another reason why a holistic approach to treatment makes so much sense. At least in my mind it does. I so enjoyed meeting all of them.
I don’t know if what I had to share was helpful or not. I was the only one on the patient panel who would no longer be categorized as “severe.” I’m so happy that I have reached this place and I hope that what I had to share was helpful in some way.
I’m currently reading a book called “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson. It’s all about praying circles around your biggest God-given dreams. I have a huge dream here and plenty of praying to do to see it through. I am more hopeful than ever before.
For now, my rockstar chariot awaits.
It’s time to chase the dawn back to the Pacific Northwest, from the Freedom Tower to the Space Needle, and back home to Spokane Valley.
Here’s to breathing well and a life without limits. Go get it!
Coming up: Days 2 and 3 of my Sunny’s Pedal, 300 mile bike ride through Idaho to raise awareness and money for organ donation. No inhaler necessary. It was quite an adventure!