Jane, age 59, was diagnosed with asthma at 54. She is white British and married with two adult children. She is a retired academic and civil servant. Jane has taken a while to get the right balance of medication and for her to understand and manage her condition herself. The main trigger for her asthma is getting a cold or viral infection. Jane uses a combination of traditional and complementary therapies to manage her symptoms.
Jane was first diagnosed with asthma when she was 54. At the time she had taken up running and was training to take part in the Race for Life, a 5 Km run. She successfully completed the run and subsequently went on holiday trekking in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. However, on her return home when she went to go out running again she found that she was unable to run more than a mile or so before things started to feel difficult I just felt like my batteries had run out was how she described the feeling. Her trainer thought her breathing sounded like she was having an asthma attack, and when she consulted her GP and he listened to her chest he confirmed that it seemed to be asthma.
Jane found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that she had been diagnosed with something that was potentially life threatening, particularly as she viewed herself as having always been fit and healthy. Her doctor prescribed steroid based inhalers for her to take, but it took some while to find the correct medication and dose. During this time she found that her asthma was difficult to control and she always felt as though she was unable to breathe properly. Contrary to her perception that asthma was a condition that was easily managed and controlled, Jane found that she was experiencing symptoms every day, sometimes exacerbated by travelling to London for work where she noticed the air pollution seemed to trigger asthma attacks fairly frequently. She was closely monitored by her GP during this time and was able to let him know by phone how she was feeling and if she needed help. She was eventually prescribed an inhaler (red and white stripes) that seemed to work well, and has been using the same one ever since, although before that she tried out numerous different ones that didn’t work so well. She also has a Ventolin inhaler which is used when she needs immediate relief from symptoms.
One of the key things that triggers Jane’s asthma is going down with a cold or bug. During these times she will typically take 4 puffs of her inhaler in the morning and 4 in the evening, but her goal is always to try to gradually reduce the number of puffs she takes so that at times she is able to stop using the inhalers completely. If she gets a cold or something triggers her asthma she will need to begin using the inhalers again, and sometimes is also prescribed steroid tablets and/or antibiotics to help alleviate the chest and viral symptoms. Jane uses a peak flow monitor to gauge whether she needs to take steroid tablets at these times.
As well as taking the regular medication for asthma, Jane also sees a homeopathic practitioner who has prescribed a natural remedy for her to take. Although she knows there is no evidence to suggest that such remedies work, she feels that it has helped control her symptoms and her GP is happy for her to pursue this avenue as long as she doesn’t use it as a replacement for the prescribed medication.
Jane feels that over the six years since she was diagnosed with asthma she has come a long way from being quite frightened and worried when she was first diagnosed, to feeling that she now has a good understanding and ability to manage the condition herself. Over this time, one thing that Jane has found really helpful has been to keep a journal. It helps her on a number of levels, such as being able to look back at the difficult times and see her progress in recovering, and it also helps sometimes to have an outlet for feeling angry and upset that this has happened to disrupt her life at this time.
Jane says now‚.. I’ve reached a stage now where for the most part, for 95% of the time, I am in control of my asthma.