2nd dose of Mepolizumab in the bag

Thats the second dose of mepolizumab done and dusted. Now to wait till next month for my next injection next month.

So many people have been asking me how I feel and if the new drug is helping or making a difference, or ask me when I will start noticing the benefits. Its really hard to tell. I am feeling some positive effects from it I think and there have been a few side effects but nothing major.

The most telling sign is that I have noticed my peak flow has been increasing and I have not been in my red zone since the 19th September. That is a full 10 days. It may not seem like a great achievement and many will not agree with me for being excited that I have gone ten days and not dropped my peak flow but the nature of my asthma has meant that my peak flow is all over the place and so has my control been. I must say my asthma control has not been poor through my own choice and I have tried desperately hard to keep it n control. I have not managed to get into my green zone since June but I am happy with that. Better to be stable and sitting in my amber zone stable than jumping up and down with readings all over the place. I think slow and steady is the way to improve….it has after all only taken 14 plus years to get to this point.

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Other than looking at peak flow results and keeping track of how much salbutamol (both nebuliser and inhaler) I am using how do I actually feel? DoI feel different?? It is hard to say. My prednisolone dose has not been reduced and has been kept at the same dose since I was discharged from hospital in April. I am finding it hard to identify if feeling well and pretty stable is because of the steroids or due to the introduction of the mepolizumab. Once I have my 3rd injection I am hoping my consultant sticks with his plan and we can start the slow process of reducing the prednisolone. I am aware I won’t get off it (or may get off it and converted to hydrocortisone due to adrenal failure) but lower will suit me just fine.

Since starting the mepo I have not been to bad with side effects. After the first I had a bad headache the first time but the second dose was not as bad. A bit of a sore head but nothing to major. The one thing I have noticed and I am not sure if it is coincidence or what but I have been waking up in the morning feeling like I am drowning or choking on the amount of phlegm I have on my chest. I have always had a bit of a productive chest- it goes with the territory of having lung disease but this is different. I am still not sleeping super well but I am wondering if that because I am sleeping slightly better and not waking up so much the phlegm is building up rather than me waking having a cough moving all the stuff and then settling back down. I guess the good thing is that all the movement of phlegm means I (fingers crossed) won’t be as susceptible to a chest infection and may notice them quicker as everything is moving so will see the colour changes. Although this is good that I am moving stuff in my chest I find in the morning I am having to do more saline nebulisers and a lot of physio to move it and it has often made me sick because of it. This is a minor price to pay though in terms of side effects.

With this medication as I have said before I won’t see improvements over night but will over time and I think I am starting to see them. The other thing I have noticed and finding it more and more is that people are telling me how well I look and don’t sound as bad which is probably the best part. The past 3 weekends have been jam packed full of different things- mainly lacrosse and by the end of each weekend I have been on my knees longing for my bed but I have managed them. I have managed to spend these weekends on the side lines of a lacrosse field, or in the middle of a lacrosse field coaching  with either Edinburgh Uni or Scotland (Scotland is just goalkeepers and assistant manager). A lie in over a weekend would be lovely and in the past weekends have been all about recovering and getting myself prepared for the next week of work but I have been able to use these weekends to do what I love and not suffer at work. Don’t get me wrong it was so hard to get up on Monday but I think most people find it hard to get up on a Monday morning for work so being what I called “normal” person tired is awesome.

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One thing I am very thankful for is having people around me who can keep me grounded and don’t let me get ahead of myself. I have always been someone who will try and do the long distance run before I can jog let alone walk so even though I may get grumpy at people holding me back I do appreciate it. Coach Dave at Scotland Lacrosse knows when to reign me in and make sure I just take it easy and ensures I just walk or rest when I perhaps am going full steam.

I have an excitement in my life just now something that I have not had in a long time. I look forward to being able to plan things in advance and not worry that I may need to cancel or not be well enough to attend. I am aware that there will still be times when my lungs just stop me from doing what I want but through this I have also learnt to appreciate life, not take it for granted and just live for the moment.

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Taking time helps to heal

The first week of annual leave I really felt a little bit of a mess and just didnt know what to do with myself and everything seemed really negative and falling apart around me, but a week in and half way through my annual leave I feel things are starting to get back together and I feel much better for it.

I have had time this week to sit, think and evaluate what it important, what I should prioritise and what I shouldn’t but also to look at what is important to me both in terms of what I like and want to do but also in terms of what is going to keep me healthy and well.

I didnt go to the World Cup to volunteer and to say I was down in the dumps about it would be an under statement. I didnt think I would feel as down about it as I did. It shocked me just how much it effected me but its been for the good. I have been able to watch all the games live over a web stream which if i sit back and think about it I wouldn’t have got to watch all the games if I was there volunteering as would be working and doing stats rather than watching the lacrosse for sheer enjoyment and trying to work out plays and watch how decisions are made and coaches change their tactics according to how games are progressing has been great fun so there are positives of not being there.

I also got a lovely message from the Scotland team today as well thanking me for what I have done which brought a wee tear to my eye. That team are a really special one and each member I really value and glad to be part of their prep to the World Cup so I hope each and everyone of them is enjoying the experience.

This next week I am going to London on Sunday and doing a talk along with some other bits and pieces then coming back home again.

I will be able to spend the rest of my time up north at the cottage for a few days working on various bits of research I am doing and have a new role as part of a patient advisory group for the European Lung Foundation too which is exciting. I am already a patient advisor for a study they are leading but really looking forward to something different with this role.

I thought the 2 weeks were really going to drag as I wasn’t doing what I had planned a while ago and I sort of put it to the back of my mind my annual leave as I knew thinking about it would also bring about thoughts of what I should have been doing but wasn’t able to but I have had so much support from friends that the week flew by and I am sure the next one will to and I will be moaning about wanting to be back on annual leave rather than working!

I need to do some resting as chest wise its been a wee struggle this last week more so than has been for a while but I think thats because the weather has been quite muggy and humid never an asthmatics friend! So hopefully the rain that is pelting down just now will clear the air to make for happy lungs and happy breathing!!!!

Making tough choices

Since getting things back on track with work etc I have realised I need to make some tough choices and prioritise what I need to do versus what I want to do.

In 2015 I had the best summer volunteering and recording statistics at the U19 World Lacrosse Championships. 2 weeks of full on lacrosse from watching, commentating, doing first aid, odd jobs and the main thing was stats. It was hard work and meant being outside in rain, wind, more wind and a little sun. So naturally when the Lacrosse World Cup was to be hosted by England and take place in Surrey I was straight on the web and signing up to do statistics again. I was so excited and looking forward to 2 weeks of lacrosse and getting to watch it pitch side and be involved right on the sideline of the competition.

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As time got nearer I have secured accommodation onsite and really looking forward to seeing friends from the FIL again who I worked closely with at the U19 Champs. I was also given the role of 1 of 3 stats leads for the World Cup which I was over the moon about. I was really looking forward to it but recent events was casting doubts into my mind about wether or not I could manage it physically. I didnt doubt my ability in doing stats but my stamina to spend 2 weeks only feet non stop with long days up early and bed late.

So after much thought and consideration I have decided its best not to go down to Surrey. I am really gutted but there will be other World Cups I can volunteer at but I only have one life and I need to concentrate on getting my health back on track and maximising my stamina and not run myself down into the ground where I can’t do my job and feel well.

My work have been fantastic with me and I really can’t jeopardise that at all. I know myself that if I went to Surrey I wouldn’t be able to help myself and wouldn’t be able to say no if I was asked to do extra stuff. I would be running on adrenaline and would try and do all that I could to get the most out of the experience, so I have decided it is best to withdraw from volunteering and not go down.

I will be following the World Cup online and watching the matches and seeing how Scotland do and wishing them on from afar. I will be focusing on getting myself feeling good and getting on top of everything which I hope will mean in the future I can do more and enjoy things like lacrosse again.

It is really hard when things you love have to play second string to what you need to do to look after your health. I remember the days when I really didnt have a care and could do what I wanted when I wanted and not have to think about things so much or worry about having enough medication or what potential triggers could be around causing attacks. Its frustrating but I am hoping by taking these steps will mean that I can miss doing one thing which will allow me to do more and more in the future.

Heres hoping!!!

2016 Round Up!

2016 has been a pretty awful year. There have been highs but there has also been some mega low points so like much of the world I am looking forward to 2017 and to it being better than this year has been.

January, I guess the start of the year set it off, after being admitted to the intensive care unit on Hogmanay with my asthma. This really took it out of me as for the first time I could not work out what went wrong and why I went downhill so quickly. It still haunts me to this day about how it all went off so quickly.

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Then after being discharged too early (i am one who will go as soon as possible but this time I wasn’t and knew I shouldn’t be going home but the Dr’s were not listening!). So two weeks after discharge I got readmitted and spent my 30th birthday on the respiratory ward which I know all to well. So I guess its not too bad as I knew who everyone is etc but its not the best feeling.

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Photo from on my 30th birthday. At this point I didnt think the year could get much worse. I was off work so long and really worried about being able to keep working. January was one long fight and I was so glad so see the back of it.

February was a better month. Spending time with my nephew making pancakes and also being part of the Scotland squad. Despite the my last hospital admission occurring mid Scotland training weekend I was still able to trial for Home Internationals in Guildford Surrey later in the year so it gave me focus. Having that focus was a huge thing for me and a real positive in what seemed like a whole heap of negativity.

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March was my nephews 3rd birthday- so always a good time to spend with the family celebrating and eating cake!!! I also went to the Scottish Parliament again in March with Asthma UK for the cross party group on Asthma. This was the last one held and there has not been another one this year which is a bit sad as Scotland really is leading the way with asthma research and big data research looking at whole populations in databases rather than bit parts. Hopefully we will have another CPG again soon. At the end of march I also moved house. I moved from my 1 bed first floor flat to a 2 bed top floor flat just round the corner from where I used to live. It was the best move ever!!!

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April- this was the start of the year becoming good. The hard work I put in paid off. My asthma was semi under control. Or as under control as I could get it. But I was able to travel to Guildford Surrey as part of the Scotland B squad for Home Internationals playing England, Wales and Ireland. It was a dream since I was at school to play for Scotland, pull that blue or white shirt on and sing Scotland the Brave in front of a crowd. I got to do it and it may not be much to some people but it was the most awesome feeling. I enjoyed it so much and was really proud to have been selected.

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My club team also won the final four weekend of the Mixed clubs tournament which was great!

May- there was more lacrosse. Capital won the MacRobert Mixed Tournament, Capital won Community Engagement Club of the Year along with Edinburgh City for the after school club we run. I was also elected as Development Director for the Lacrosse Scotland Board. It was a big month lacrosse wise but also it saw world asthma day which was a much quieter affair this year than previous days. Softball and the Laxadaisicals started back up for the season!! Softball was great to keep team spirit up while there was not so much Lacrosse going.

June was a huge month and one of the most positive months of the year. Mainly because I was so busy but also because through March, April and May I had been trying not to do so much to enable my lungs to be good for what was going to hit them. We started off with a trip to Italy for my Mum’s 60th Birthday. It was amazing. A big villa in the mountains with all the family just about. My older step sister and her kids couldn’t make it due to school and the fact my youngest nephew was not born yet!!!

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June continued to be an awesome month as I travelled to London to join some americans who were over from America. We formed a team called International Inferno. The girls were from Florida Southern University and their coach Kara who had just won the NCAA Div 2 Championship. I joined them in London for a weekend and had a great laugh getting to know them and playing lacrosse with them. To say I was slightly nervous was an under statement as they have come off the back of a championship win and I am a goalkeeper who has been in the goal about 6 months!!!

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After London it was a quick turn around and the travelled to Prague to join the team there for the Prague Cup. Prague was a great experience. We were second in the tournament but it was so much more than just coming second. Have made some great friends and hopefully will see them all again soon.

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(two missing from this photo of players!)

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Coach Kara Reber in the middle in yellow!!!

So as you can see June was a huge month!! July was a month for rest and recovery and thats what I did. I really feel my body took a hammering from the constant go go go but I wouldn’t change it. It was the really good pick me up and also the sort of finale to my lacrosse playing days. I was ambitious after Home Internationals but could not resist the chance to go and play in Prague etc. Im so glad I did it. Going with your gut it a great thing!

August started off with a trip to London to speak about living with severe asthma. This was a great opportunity as I was not speaking to your average people about asthma but I was speaking to the creme de la creme of asthma researchers and Drs. I was speaking to Drs who I have read about and wanted to be under because of their expertise in asthma. The likes of Ian Pavord and Adel Mansur. I was speaking to them to give them advice of what it is like to live with severe asthma, and the trials of living on steroids. It was a great experience and I ended up coming back with a new area of interest. I joined a group of paediatricians to collaborate with them on a bid proposal for a piece of research. It was amazing being part of something from the birth of it and the idea of it to the grant application. Also this was one of the first times I was a co-applicant on a bid. Something new for me (after this year not my last either!!). My high of the start of the month was short lived as not long after my return from London I ended up having a severe attack and ending up going to intensive care for a few days and then a further week or so in hospital. I kind of pushed to get out of hospital as had big plans in September which I was not prepared to give up on (I did end up not carrying out my plans but more of that to come). This admission was tough. Access was a nightmare, they couldn’t get an IV in. I ended up asking one of my colleagues from renal to come and try cannulate me but not even they could manage it which is so unusual- renal nurses get blood out of anyone!!! It took a while to get off the IV aminophylline as well. But we got there and I got home.

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This is a photo I like..I used my oxygen to blow up a frog balloon thing my nephew got on a magazine. I wasn’t able to blow it up (obviously- don’t think I could even now) but thought it was a funny photo!!!

September started off with me making difficult decisions. I pushed to get out of hospital because I had big meetings coming up. I had been invited by Astra Zeneca to come down and talk at their annual meeting which they were hosting in London ahead of the European Respiratory Society Conference. I went down to this and gave my talk. I made some amazing friends, one who has had their life changed by new drugs out there and the other who has asthma like me and can totally understand how it feels. Its not often you get someone who just understands but he does, and then you have someone who proves your life can be changed by drugs which has renewed my hope in the one day there will be a drug I can get which will change my life around.

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After the meeting I was meant to stay in London and meet up with Jess a fellow brittle asthmatic who I have spoken to for about 10 years after meeting on the asthma UK forum. I was also meant to be going to a meeting with the European Respiratory Society as a patient expert on a project they are involved in and finally I was also invited to the House of Commons for a drinks reception held by asthma UK but I decided to head home on the Friday night and miss these meetings as I just wasn’t well enough. I didnt get to meet Jess either but we both agreed there would be other times!! I also had clinic in September. I am lucky in that I can contact my consultant should I need to in-between clinic times so clinic is just a touch base time. Nothing was changed and we are just going to keep going as we are and tackle each blip as they come!!!

September I also took on the position of assistant manager (AssMan) of the Scotland Senior Womens Lacrosse team. I was so thankful for this. Since not playing I have really wanted to still be involved in Lacrosse but not knowing how, so by being asked to be AssMan I was thrilled. I have found I can still use some of my sports science background and help out with the exercise testing of the players and help with the goal keepers too. I really enjoy the job and so thankful for it.

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September ended with another new experience. I was interviewed for a book which I am being featured in. The book’s working title is Healthcare Hero’s and I am being featured because of the stuff I do for research and with lacrosse in spite of my asthma. But as I said to them at the end of the interview if I didnt do what I do I would be in a big depression and have nothing to live for. Its simple as that.

October was a quiet month. I didnt feel great most of it to be honest. I was back and forth to the Dr a fair bit and emailing my consultant to. I was not really bad but not great. That horrible in between time. I managed to hold out most of the month until my GP decided enough was enough and got me in to be seen. It was a useful admission as it meant we sorted out my main relief from the chronic lung pain I have from all the exacerbations but also got rid of this viral thing I had. It was pretty uneventful other than all the junior Drs were terrified of me as I sounded awful but not awful for me!!!

November was a fairly big month too. We had the annual scientific meeting for the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research. This was hosted in Edinburgh so I got to stay at home but it was great to meet more PPI members who I have not met before. It was an interesting meeting and also amazing all the research which is going on. Later in November my best friend got married. My little brother payed the pipes. It was held in Edinburgh Zoo and it was an amazing day!! I loved every minute of it. I just wish I could have stayed to the end but my chest was just not up for it and I had to leave. But Jenni looked amazing and both her and Rich looked so happy.

Later my brother also got married up in Loch Tay. They had fantastic weather and could not have asked for a better day. Slightly chilly but clear, no wind and no rain. What more could you want.

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Me and my nephew at my brothers wedding.

December to where we are now. December brought the meeting of Jess and her beautiful and wonderful canine partner Xenna. We have waited 10 years to meet but once we met it was like we had always known each other. Poor Xenna didnt get fed till late one night because we were just chatting and didnt realise the time till she started whining at us. She got fed very soon after that don’t worry!!!

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(me making Jess look like she has a ta!!) It was so great to meet you!!! One of the strangest things happened though. When we were wanting around the museum Xenna kept staring at me and walking over to me. We think this was because she was picking up I wasn’t well and was getting chesty. She did it several times.

Sadly not long after Jess left I was admitted to hospital with a chest infection. Maybe Xenna was right and could detect I had a bad chest and was brewing something. Even though she is not trained for that. It was very odd. The admission was fairly uneventful and I picked up ok but I was determined to get out and be ok for Christmas and be with my family. It was slightly stressful as didnt let everyone know I was admitted as it was rather routine but news got out. I just want to get on with admissions quietly and my own way unless I am critically ill and going to intensive care or high dependancy then I let everyone know as I would be AWOL otherwise!!!

Christmas came and went. A small quiet Christmas up north with my mum, step dad and youngest brother. It was a lovely time. The weather was awful- very windy, snowy, raining and cold but it meant we could stay in by the fire and reads books and chat.

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Today was back to work and face reality before Hogmanay and we welcome in 2017. Here hoping 2017 is a better year health wise than 2016 has been. I have to be honest it has been a long slog and really hard work. There have been some awesome highs but some really bad moments and some movements I never want to go through again.

Motto for 2016 has been Dum Spiro Spero

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Women in Sport Week

The week past was Women in Sport Week. It is a great week to really shout about all the great things that women in sport are doing- the likes of Jessica Ennis Hill who has now announced her retirement from sport. You have Nicola Adams and her success at the Olympics. Women in Sport have a much bigger role now than there ever did before. There is still a huge inequality which can be seen in the likes of football where male footballers earn huge sums whereas women need to work while playing football at the same level because there is not the money in women sport like there is in mens. Slowly but surely the tide is changing and hopefully there will be a level playing field at some stage but just now we just need to continue celebrating the things women do do.

So that brings me on to Lacrosse. I was totally overwhelmed, proud, shocked, speechless when Lacrosse Scotland featured me for day one of women in sport week. This is what was posted:

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Our #womeninsportweek feature of the day goes to Edinburgh native @just_tux, the Lacrosse Scotland Development Director and Senior Squad assistant manager, for her continued support of our team and devotion to women’s sport!
In addition to her work as the Lacrosse Scotland development director, Ollie works with the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research. As a member of the patient and public involvement team, Ollie works to share her experiences living with brittle asthma among researchers and other patients so they too can take control and live full and active

This was totally unexpected but I am really proud of it and it has given me a boost to just keep doing what I am doing. But later in the week more was to follow. I saw the European Lacrosse Federation also featured me on day three of Women in Sport week. I was really stunned as other features previously were whole teams not just one person. I am really touched and honoured for them to have recognised what I have been doing and if this can put Lacrosse on the map more but also how devastating asthma can be but also the opportunities that asthma can give you!


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Thank you to everyone who has supported me and helped me to get to where I am.

Whats your reality??

The other day I picked up my medication from the pharmacy and laughed when the handed me over a shopping back but then went back for another one!!! I know all the people in my pharmacy well and will always have a chat with them but I have never really told them whats wrong with me. They know I have asthma but they don’t know much about it etc, until the other day when I hadn’t been in for a while. I collect my dosette box weekly from them and will get a top up of inhalers etc every so often. She asked where I had been so I told her I had been in hospital and thats hy hadn’t been in. She was shocked. She said she didnt realise just asthma could do that to someone. I went on to explain a bit more about it and how it impacts me and explained what all the meds I take are for. She said she ha wondered as didnt think asthma could be like that. She said it must be hard but its life. Life for everyone is hard at times but it is what you make out of it.

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I have days where I really resent having asthma and wish I could go back to primary school I think P3 was when I was on just one preventer and a reliever and that was it. That would be wonderful but then what would I have achieved in life if I didnt have the difficult asthma. I am sure I would be proud of my life but Im not sure I would have done nearly half of what I have done and a lot of it is because of my asthma such as publishing an article in the BMJ, playing for Scotland in the Home Internationals, be back as a goal keeper in lacrosse, speaking at so many events, speaking on a masters course at Edinburgh Uni, being a nurse, being development director for Lacrosse Scotland, being a PPI lead for AUKCAR, being a RaP volunteer at Asthma UK. None of these things I would have done and I also would not have met some fantastic people on my way and made some great friends. I am thankful for my asthma to have given me these oppeturnities inspire of also giving me some of the hardest times in my life and living with the fear that it could kill me one day. (but then as my mum says you could cross the road and get knocked down by a bus so you never know what is runs the corner!!!!

I would love for a day when my breathing is a little less challenging and a little less limiting but I think in a small way I am glad it has shaped me the way it has.

The reason I wrote this out was because I just picked up my meds as I wrote in the start and I organised them into my cupboard to make them all neat and so I know what is where. I was getting lost with the meds and what I was taking when. It was over whelming but my pharmacist has reduced that a lot by sorting my meds out weekly but they were also all in a box just chucked in so never knew what I had and what I was running out of. Now they are neat in a cupboard which I can close the door on. Closing the door- after some carful tetris packing because it wouldn’t shut the first time round, made me think about what we hide from the outside. What is our own reality and what is the reality that we allow people to see. My life on the outside is very different to life in my flat. I find when I am at home I am resting and doing treatment to allow myself to go out and about and be with friends or coach or something else. It is like two polar worlds- one which is in preparation of going out or the recovery of being out and then the being out and doing things. Its keep the private and the public separate until you read this and realise that asthma is not just asthma but it is much bigger. It is life changing, life threatening, life limiting.

 

But take each day as it comes and rise to the challenges that are thrown at you and achieve what you dream of achieving as it is always possible it just has to be achieved in different ways with some imagination sometimes. For instance I always wanted to play lacrosse for Scotland but never did I think it would be achieved by being in the goal, I thought if it was to happen it would be playing out field.

Good things come to those who wait.

Life is for living not watching it go by in front of you!

 

How do you get used to to living in a state of instability?

You don’t….

I like my life to be quite ordered. I like to know what I’m doing day to day, week to week. Many think I am stuck in my ways but I like routine. Routine gets me through, it means I know where I am. Recently I have found my asthma has been not to bad but the last month I would say it has been teetering on a knife edge. Never quite knowing when things are going to tip but desperately hanging on.

It is that very difficult period where your just sort of suffering. The nights are long and a little frightening as my asthma always gets worse at night. I finish work at four and have often been in bed by 6 using my nebulisers but just exhausted from getting myself through the day without getting sent home or worse ending up in A&E. Part of me wants to just hold my hands up and admit defeat but I can’t. I have to keep going.

If I am honest I feel alone just now. I sort of feel like I am on my own with this horrible condition even though I know Im not. I have lost a lot of my vital support networks which I didnt realise I heavily relied on even when my breathing is good. Matters out with my control have meant that to protect myself I cannot show true self or leave myself vulnerable to others, in doing this I am protecting myself but I am also isolating myself and I hate this. I loved being part of the support groups being able to help others and receive help and support myself too.

I really hate asthma just now and how little it is understood.

If only it could go away or a cure could be found soon. I try to be strong but today I can’t be. Today I want to hide in my flat and curl up in bed.

One of the other things I hope that by just not doing anything this weekend is that I still have a massive fear of going to A&E again. The fear of not being listened to is still fresh in my mind and that resulted in me going to intensive care because a nurse thought he new best, I was young and was not that bad. I hate to think what would have happened had I not had my own nebuliser with me and had I not know my own chest. I mean even with my own actions I couldn’t stop myself ending up in intensive care and this really terrifies me. I fear that I will end up being looked after by the same nurse again, it may be an irrational fear and the chances are slim but it is still there in my mind at was was already a scary time and it was just made worse. As a result there has been times when I may have had to go to hospital but did because I just stayed at home and would do back to back nebs- maybe more than I should have but the fear was paralysing and I can’t explain that fear to anyone.

I have to look at the positives though. I have had the most amazing summer doing things I never thought I would have. I made some awesome friends and played more lacrosse than I could have dreamt of so while I don’t feel great I can sit and look at the photos and memories of the summer and smile knowing that with hard work I will be able to do this again!!