wait.. so you’re telling me it’s not exercise-induced asthma… it’s ASTHMA Asthma?! Like the type of asthma I could potentially have for the rest of my life?
I wanted to cry in the doctor’s office. I never thought I would actually be diagnosed with asthma. The truth is, I’ve been in denial for about a year now, thinking that my lungs weren’t that bad.
Let me back up a bit here…
Last june I had a scary breathing episode at the Patriot Half Ironman. I was on my way to setting a PR and going under 5 hours, when I got to the run and literally could not inhale (what the doctor called bronchospasms). I had to slow down, walk a bit… almost stopped entirely. I got it together somehow, worked through the spasms in my lungs and finished, still placing 2nd AG. When I crossed that finish line, it was a scary couple minutes before I got an inhaler. I was more frustrated that I didn’t PR and I didn’t even think something was seriously wrong with me.
At Ironman Mont-Tremblant, during the run, the same episode happened again! Prior to the race I received a new type of inhaler, thinking it would help me. I was feeling great on the run (my legs at least) but my lungs could not inhale. I was wheezing and coughing the entire marathon of IMMT. How frustrating!! I think I could have had a better run, had I not had the breathing issues. I wanted to cry out of frustration during the marathon, I was so pissed off at my lungs and even said a few times ‘F you lungs, my legs trained hard for this race!’ The wheezing was horrendous, even WITH my inhaler. I recall taking it, and taking it again, it did nothing. It also didn’t help that it was a chilly day in Tremblant that day. When I crossed the Ironman finish line, I couldn’t inhale and was wheezing beyond belief.. it was awful.
In every day life & training, there have been warning signs that I have ignored until now..
I’ve been out of breath going up stairs (which shouldn’t happen for someone as fit as me). I’ve been coughing excessively after runs (no matter the temperature outside, but obviously worse in the cold), I’ve been wheezing in the pool at every swim practice, coughing all day long on the days that I swim…. feeling out of breath for hours after a long run… oh and I was getting used to living with shallow breathing, thinking I could just ‘deal’ with it… silly me.
So yesterday, I finally got a second opinion and saw a Pulmonologist. I filled him on on my symptoms, family history (my grandma had horrible asthma) and he listened to my lungs.. which sounded horrible by the way.
One thing led to another and then he told me that I have asthma. He actually said ‘I’m probably the first person who’s ever told you that you have asthma.’ He was right. I had been told I have signs of exercise induced asthma, but not full blown asthma… this was the first time. The pulmonologist then told me that asthma can show up differently in fit people. What I’m experiencing with my lungs might appear a lot more severe in someone who is unhealthy. Of course, there are exceptions to this.
While at the doctor’s office, I was told how to do the proper breathing technique with my inhaler. Go figure, I was not doing it properly! Previously, I would rush the ‘puffs’ with the inhaler and then would just go out for a run immediately after taking them. I just found out I need to take the inhaler 20-30 mins BEFORE exercises (good to know!). I also learned I need to take a break between puffs (about 1 minute). This should help the exercise symptoms!
In conjunction with my rescue inhaler (used to treat sudden symptoms), I’ve also been prescribed something more ‘heavy’ that will be help open my airways, less reactive like the inhaler, and more proactive. The medicine is called Flovent, which can help prevent symptoms before they start. Flovent helps reduce airway inflammation, an underlying cause of asthma symptoms. To be honest, I am a person who hates taking medication. I don’t even like to take advil, so this will take some getting used to. However, if it means I can breathe better, sign me up. As far as I know, this drug is not a banned substance with WADA, something you have to check with Ironman and USAT races.
After hearing all of this, I asked the question: ‘Does this mean will I have asthma for the rest of my life?’ and while the doc couldn’t really answer that, he did say it’s possible, but sometimes it does go away.
So, what’s next?
I am going to start my new medication in conjunction with my inhaler. I will them have a pulmonary function test in 6 weeks or so and a follow up appointment. I’m also getting an allergy test to see if I have any allergies that are triggering the asthma.
So, I guess I’m now an Iron(wo)man with asthma. I know it could be so much worse, but for an athlete like myself, this feels pretty devastating. On the other hand, I know there are TONS of other runners and triathletes out there, even professionals, living with asthma.
Looking forward to breathing better. 🙂
Do you or does anyone in your family have asthma? How do you/they deal with it?