It’s 6:30 am and in Horsefly, British Columbia it is still dark outside. I’m up because I’m on a “prednisone high” right now.  I became an asthmatic when I was 22 years old and after 5 years of fighting a losing battle with the illness, my husband I were forced to sell our farm at Stettler, Alberta and head for the mountains in the Elk Valley in British Columbia, where I became symptom-free.  Then we moved to our ranch at Horsefly, B.C. and the symptoms returned because once again I was in an environment that triggered them. After about 10 years the doctor put me on a regular prednisone regimen and I took followed that for 20 years. It helped me “live,” but I cringed at some of the side effects that I could see; weight gain, fullness in the face, thinning skin that bruises easily or in my case still tears open and bleeds with the slightest contact with a sharp edge. I haven’t used it for a while now and had I almost forgotten what the initial effects of it are. Boundless energy, often sleeplessness, although I did sleep through the night. It also masks areas of aches in pains–my hips are not hurting this morning, my neck is not causing me much pain. It is such a potent and amazing drug, but it also has insidious side effects.

During the past three weeks, I have been struggling with a cold bug that has been going around–sore throat, runny nose, tiredness, chills and increasing cough. Last Tuesday I did something that I never do unless I’m very ill–I went back to bed after breakfast and slept for hours- in fact I spent most of Wednesday in bed also. We were supposed to go to town on Thursday, but I just couldn’t face making the trip. My husband, Lloyd, was wonderful. He took over everything and even became my massage therapist and a safe chiropractor.

Yesterday I felt better, but when Lloyd pressed me to go to the doctor, I agreed. I didn’t get in to see my own family doctor, but I had crossed paths with Dr. Reese, the locum who was working yesterday. He remembered me from seeing me in the emergency so many times in the years when my asthma was totally uncontrolled, and he even commented on my condition at that time.

I was glad I got to see him yesterday because he is also an asthmatic, so he is really current with ideas for living with and controlling the illness. The first thing he asked me was if I had an “emergency package.” I had no idea what he meant, so he explained that I should always have  a 5-day prescription for 50 mg of Prednisone  and a full cycle of antibiotics on hand. These would only be used when I knew I was becoming compromised, and could help to ward of pneumonia and other complications. No one had ever suggested that to me before.  He listened to my lungs and immediately prescribed both. I was so relieved that I actually shed tears

All the way to town I worried about taking the doctors time when it wasn’t necessary, or worse yet, being told that there was nothing wrong with me. I thought about that afterwards and realized that it probably is a subconscious fear that stems from a comment that a doctor made when I first went for help in 1965. He told me that there was nothing wrong with me, that it was all in my head. After that, I clammed up and refused to go for medical help until I ended up in the hospital, under the care of a different doctor.  

Today Asthma is recognised as a serious condition and treatment is changing and improving. Still, when you have a chronic condition, everyone around you gets used to it–including you. About ten years ago I had a life threatening anaphylactic reaction, and at that time the medical team changed all of my medications.  That was life changing for me and although I always have a rescue inhaler with me and avoid situations that I know are dangerous for me, I don’t worry about having a flare up. I have not been to the emergency or hospitalised with asthma for several years (except that it was wildly uncontrolled when I went in for emergency surgery a year ago–but that was exacerbated by extreme pain and stress.)

Just yesterday morning Dr. Art on Global BC talked about the dangers of ignoring asthma symptoms and how many people die each year from flare-ups of the uncontrolled disease.

I encourage anyone who has undiagnosed symptoms of lung disease, or who has chronic asthma to ask their doctor to refer them to a respiratory therapist. I recently visited the one at our local hospital. It had been 16 years since my last visit, and my lung disease has advanced by a small degree, but after so many years I believe that is to be expected. I have learned to live within my limitations, but she suggested that my GP perscribe a new inhaler for me. These people are well trained and will pick up things that your general practitioner may miss. Our respiratory therapist told us that there is a new focus on asthma in the medical research community now, and there are better medications and ways of dealing with the issues coming online all the time.

Don’t ignore this very prevalent disease that often rears its ugly head at this beautiful time of the year in our area.