Hey everyone, my name is Sara Roswell, and I’m a college student at Oklahoma State University. Recently I was contacted by HealthCentral, and asked to become a contributor and I am very excited to be sharing my experiences with the HealthCentral community. So how about a little background?
When I was two years old, I had my first asthma attack. My parents took me to the doctor where I was diagnosed with asthma, and every since then I struggled with my breathing. Some days were harder than others to be sure. For most of my childhood, having asthma simply meant being conscious of my breathing and possible triggers for an attack, and remembering to regularly take my medication.
But, as I got older, my asthma got progressively worse. For all of middle and high school I was on the swim team, which seems to be the most asthma-approved sport. Then, as my asthma got worse, it affected my swimming. After three back-to-back meets with attacks, I was forced to quit the team. It was hard on me, having to give up something I loved so much, but I tried to keep a positive attitude. I was still relatively healthy, competitive sports just weren’t in the cards for me at that time.
After that, it was time to go to college. Along with the many transitions you go through as you enter college, like learning to live on your own, I was also dealing with additional breathing problems. There are many forms of asthma and everyone has different triggers, but my main triggers are: exercise, stress, and allergies.
By the end of my sophomore year I was sick more than I was healthy. I missed classes, went on several courses of steroids and antibiotics, and visited the doctor so often I should’ve had my own parking spot. I was absolutely miserable and my grades plummeted. My asthma was out of control, and my doctors were running out of options as I ran out of hope that things would be normal again. Then, something that changed my life forever happened: my doctor recommended, although very hesitantly, that I take up running.
Running?! If you are an asthmatic, you are probably thinking the same thing I thought: that doctor is trying to kill her. If I couldn’t swim, which is supposed to be one of the best activities for asthmatics, how on earth could I run? He explained that exercising the lungs through cardiovascular activity can help make asthma better, and that running was a great way to try to do that. He repeatedly said I needed to take it slow, and not get my hopes up. Trust me, that wasn’t a problem for me. I started "running"(more like a painfully slow jog) that day three times a week.
At first it was incredibly frustrating and I knew I would never stick to it unless I had something to hold me accountable. I decided I was tired of letting asthma control my life and decide what I can and cannot do. As a result, I made the outrageous decision to sign up for my first half marathon (13.1 miles).
When I started, I had never run more than a full mile without whipping out my trusty albuterol and calling it quits. After a few short weeks I noticed a huge improvement in my breathing and I felt so much better. I even got to cut back on medication and haven’t had a serious attack since I began running. I will never be the fastest runner, but I can now say I’m a half marathon runner and I display my medal proudly. Running truly changed my life forever. I still have to deal with asthma, but it doesn’t control my life anymore. Now I don’t let a little (okay sometimes a lot) of huffing and puffing stand in my way.
I hope I can share some information, tips, and stories with other “wheezers” (as I like to call asthmatics like myself) to help you breathe and believe as well.
Published On: March 31, 2011