Friday, 13 February 2009

Introducing Lucy...

My name is Lucy, I'm 22 and I've been an asthmatic for four and a half years. I'm a happy, bubbly person with a passion for reading and anything pink! I love watching medical dramas and American TV boxsets such as Greys Anatomy, Gilmore Girls, Friends (of course!) and Dawsons Creek.

I was diagnosed with asthma a few days before I went to university after having a persistent cough for two months. Whilst at uni I seemed to get more and more chest infections and my asthma became harder to control. I also have multiple allergies including food colourings, aspirin, most painkillers (NSAIDs), the anti-sickness medicine domperidone and I also have salicylate sensitivity meaning my diet is very restricted and eating out / socialising can be tricky. The combination of severe asthma and multiple allergies means that I need to take lots of medicines everyday including four inhalers, six different types of tablet and two creams for my skin. I also wear a medic alert bracelet and carry two epi-pens everywhere I go.

There is a common misconception that asthma is not serious, it's not life threatening and that it's cured by a blue inhaler. This couldn't be further from the truth and it can be very difficult to get other people to understand when you try to explain what it is like to live with asthma, particularly asthma at the more severe end of the spectrum. Uni was a difficult time for me and there were lots of up's and downs. I had a lot of hospital admissions mainly allergy related until the salicylate sensitivity was diagnosed. Being in hospital a lot meant I missed a lot of lectures but I always worked hard to catch up, even writing essays in hospital if necessary.

I graduated in 2008 with a 2:1 and now work for my local council as a Community Information Specialist. I was absolutely terrified about getting my own place to live and starting full time work. I had no idea how this would impact on my health. I started work six weeks ago and so far it's going well but it's a struggle and I'm usually exhausted by Wednesday and need the entire weekend to recover. I've had one day off so far and a couple of afternoons off but I work flexi time which works in my favour really and means that I can start late and finish early if I'm not feeling so good. My manager has been very understanding about my condition but hasn't really see the full extent of it, I hope she doesn't have to! I love living in my own house too, I don't have to worry about keeping anyone awake at night if I'm coughing a lot but again it's a struggle when I'm not well.

Recently my asthma has become a bit more unstable and I was in hospital with a chest infection just before Christmas where they found that my adrenal glands are not working properly as a consequence of repeated courses of oral steroids for both my asthma and allergies. I'm waiting for further tests before my consultant works out the best course of action but there is a possibility of trying Xolair, a relatively new treatment, to see if it would help my asthma and minimise my steroid use.

Anyone who is reading this who isn't an asthmatic is probably thinking it sounds awful... it isn't all bad though, life just involves a lot of juggling and fitting in time to take my medication or rest if I need to. In 2008 I swam a marathon in a month raising money for Asthma UK. It involved swimming a mile almost everyday between April and May and I raised nearly £300. I still try to swim regularly now as long as I don't have an infection. This year I hope to run the Race For Life in June and go on holiday in September, my first time flying and going abroad with my asthma and allergies!

I've tried to write this post so that hopefully other asthma suffers can find something they relate to but also non asthmatics can develop an understanding of the true reality of living with asthma. It's not all blue inhalers and getting out of puff in PE!

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