Quality of Life (In a Different Sense)
Last updated: February 2023
When dealing with chronic conditions like asthma, a buzzword (or phrase) is quality of life. My doctor's appointments have not been unique in this, as we discuss it frequently. Over time though, our gauge for quality of life has evolved.
How my asthma treatment plan has impacted my quality of life
An exhausting and time consuming regimen
When I was first diagnosed with severe asthma, I was placed on two controller medications. It is not uncommon for a person with asthma to require more than one maintenance medication since there are so many different classes of medicines to hit different pathways. My symptoms and lung function failed to improve as much as my doctors would have liked, so another medication was added, then another, and another...until I eventually reached a grand total of 11 controller meds within a few years. If you think this sounds exhausting, I'm right there with you.1
When I was at the maximal treatment regimen, I spent close to 3 hours every day with just my nebulizer, not even including all the inhalers, pills, and biologics involved. I have said it before, and I will say it again - I don't ever fault my team for doing everything they can to improve my health and decrease my symptoms. Everything they prescribed and recommended was in an attempt to get me feeling better and back to the life I wanted.
Yet again, my lung function did not quite do what we wanted it to do. The additional treatments did not correlate to additional relief, and I found myself even more burdened by my regimen. We've been discussing reducing my medication burden for a while now, but we've always been hesitant. Some of the more "core" medications (still looking at around 6-7 here) created quite an issue every time we've attempted to peel one away. It just seemed more logical to keep everything on board. I mentioned 6-7, but what about the other 4-5 medications? What's their purpose in my treatment? If you ask me, they were doing more harm than good. I'm not talking about symptom-wise, but concerning my quality of life.
I have a really nasty case of severe asthma. My doctors constantly tell me they've never seen a case like mine before. I take oral steroids every day. The pulmonology office I frequent knows me by voice on the phone. Short-acting bronchodilators are my best friends. Daily symptoms kind of come with the territory here, and I don't expect anything besides that anymore. The entire sense in adding each additional medication beyond the 6-7 we knew were effective was to see if I could possibly evade the whole symptoms every day deal. Naturally, that didn't happen; I can't avoid symptoms if I'm on 6 medications or if I'm on 11 medications.
Determining my best quality of life and asthma treatments
Quality of life includes so much more than physical health. Quality of life includes your mental health, emotional health, time for social and self-care, and so many more facets. Asthma has taken so much from me in the physical domain (and likes to seep its way into my sanity too), but it doesn't have to take over everything. I'm going to feel crummy regardless, and some days still may take more maintenance simply because of above-baseline symptoms. In spite of that, if I can take back just a minuscule amount of my quality of life by eliminating a few not-so-helpful treatments, I am all for it. That's not to say I won't ever add them back or won't try another medication, but it is to say I deserve a life outside of my illness. Not just a life, but a quality of life.
Have you entered our Asthma-Friendly Holiday Gift Giveaway?