My East Coast Asthma Story: How It Started and How It’s Going
When I was living in Washington, DC about 10 years ago, my asthma was not just poorly controlled, it was out of control. I was taking two daily controller medicines: a combo medicine, and an extra inhaled corticosteroid. I was getting weekly allergy shots for my dust mite, cat, and dog allergies. I always had reactions to the shots, so I would take over-the-counter allergy meds, my rescue inhaler, and ranitidine on shot days.
I had vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) that would start about 30 minutes after entering my office, so I was attending speech therapy. I did not want to miss work, so I scheduled these weekly medical appointments before work. By the time I made it into the office I was already exhausted. My co-pays for all the medications and appointments were around $500 a month.
On most days it felt like I was working my full-time job just to pay for my second full-time job – managing my asthma.
A trip to California changed things
I went to San Francisco for a conference. As I was walking down Market Street, I noticed something ...different. My lungs felt clear and open. I was taking deep breaths instead of my normal, shallow breaths. My nose was not stuffy, and my voice was not hoarse from VCD. I was able to walk up the steep hills in the city without gasping for air or using my inhaler. What. Was. Happening. I thought to myself, "do I need to live here so I can breathe better?" Were my asthma triggers only found on the east coast?
A few weeks later, I was offered a job in the San Francisco Bay Area out of the blue. I am always up for a new adventure, so moving across the country, accepting a new job and promotion, and hopefully improving my asthma was all too good to pass up. I bought a one-way ticket to the west coast and settled into my new California life.
At first, I had some asthma episodes. Soot from the trains and the port would collect in my apartment. I had the stress of starting a new job, finding new friends, and learning my way around a new city. After my first year, I was able to cut down on my daily medication. By the third year, I no longer needed a controller medicine unless I was sick.
How it's going: My east coast asthma
After over six years of living in California, my asthma was well controlled. I felt like a new person! Then I was offered a position in DC, so I packed up again and moved back east to be closer to my family. I was very concerned that living back in DC would worsen my asthma.
I have been back on the east coast for almost 2.5 years. I am happy to say that my asthma has not gotten worse. I still only need a controller medicine if I get sick. But, thanks to the health and safety precautions many of us took during the pandemic, I have not had a respiratory infection for two years.
I know how lucky I am
Moving to and from California was a risk. Many people who relocate see no improvement in their asthma, or their symptoms may increase. I know how lucky I am to not need controller medicine for now. I also know that I am just one trigger away from that next episode or attack, so I always carry my quick-relief inhaler with me.
Has moving improved or worsened your asthma?
Have you ever experienced an itchy chin prior to or during asthma attacks?