Denise is a 66-year-old retired schoolteacher from Massachusetts. She was diagnosed with asthma 15 years ago. Here, she explains how she has learned to live with asthma.
What was your first sign that something was wrong? What symptoms did you experience?
After a bout with bronchitis, I started having symptoms of chest tightness and difficulty breathing. Sometimes the symptoms were so severe that I had to go to the emergency room.
What was the diagnosis experience like?
The symptoms became much worse when I went to my summer home, because there was much more mold and other allergens in the climate there. So I went to a doctor there (not my permanent doctor back home), who diagnosed it and prescribed a treatment. When I went home, my regular doctor managed my treatment.
What was your initial and then longer-term reaction to the diagnosis?
I don't really recall what my reaction was, other than, "Well, okay, it's just another thing to manage," because I also have diabetes. So I just looked at it as something I had to deal with, but I don't remember being terribly upset or frightened, although the episodes when I had to go to the emergency room were a bit frightening.
How do you manage asthma?
I've managed my asthma over the years by taking prescribed medications and by avoiding allergens and other triggers, such as smoke, that can cause my asthma to flare up. Until recently, I was taking a medication called Pulmocort every day, which kept my asthma under very good control. In fact, my symptoms have recently abated completely. I don't know if it's because I'm now retired and under less stress, but I've stopped taking the Pulmocort (with my doctor's perm