In early May, I had the opportunity to hear former NHL hockey player Georges Laraque speak about his asthma. He mentioned that it was the first time he’d spoken publicly about his asthma (and he wasn’t quite sure how they’d found out that he has asthma, though that’s beside the point!), but he wasn’t sure why it had not occurred to him before. Especially when speaking about overcoming obstacles or challenges to kids, a group who may find particular motivation in hearing from a professional athlete with asthma—especially if they have asthma themselves, or have a friend with asthma.
Laraque, of course, is not the only pro hockey player who has asthma. Around the time of my own diagnosis, I learned that Anton Stralman (then playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs) had asthma. Sixteen-year-old-me was pleased with this, obviously. Now, say what you want about the Leafs, but Stralman’s been getting a fair amount of press in the past season—good, bad or otherwise—and he’s out there, with asthma in the background, putting an equally strong game on. On days where I’ve struggled through workouts of my own because of my breathing, sometimes having a bit of an extra push helps, knowing that there are professional athletes out there who probably have off days too.
For me, my asthma role models aren’t just pro athletes or celebrities, but also my friends who get out there and do whatever it takes to not let asthma stop them from reaching their goals—whether it’s my friend Kat cycling every day for a month straight (and then some), even going out at 11 PM one night to get a quick ride in after a Skype call, or Dia (who informed me of this Aqua Cycle business and yes people, there is a freaking bike in the water), or my friend Steve who has severe asthma, but continues to stay active and in the past has walked/race-walked 8 marathons (including 3 Boston Marathons) and many more half marathons. These friends who have asthma are also always there to troubleshoot asthma issues I may be having (because let’s be honest, other people with asthma DO know things that doctors simply don’t get!), whether they’re exercise related or not, but also always push me to do the right thing and stay active… even if it’s not always the easy thing. Knowing people who are doing really awesome things, despite their sometimes not-so-awesome lungs, and occasionally what I like to call “positive peer pressure”-ing each other into making good choices? Yeah, that’s the kind of "role modeling" I’m talking about.
I mean, singer-songwriter P!nk has asthma, too—and she’s just all kinds of awesome. My asthma role models aren’t just all about athletes: they’re just all about doing whatever they want, even if they may have to think a little bit more or differently to make it possible for them to get where they’re going and reach their goals successfully.
Who’s your asthma role model? Are they a celebrity or someone in your everyday life? Why do they motivate you to go further with your asthma than you’d have pushed yourself? Let me know in the comments.
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