Sports have always been a big part of my family’s identity. Playing netball, cross country running, being active, it’s who we are. But then I struggled to keep up, because of my asthma.

When I was a kid, I had a chronic cough. Then one day, I had a really bad coughing attack that took my breath away. I remember I couldn’t even stand up from the couch. My parents took me to the doctor, and that’s when I was diagnosed with asthma.

I would have to watch from the sidelines with my puffer (inhaler) as my twin brother was able to live an active lifestyle. Why was I struggling when he was thriving?

Living on the outside

My family were always supportive, but they couldn't fully understand what I was experiencing. They were told my asthma was just childhood asthma and that I would outgrow it.

As my disease got worse over time, it became even more difficult for my family to understand the pain and challenges that I was experiencing everyday. It became hard for them to detect my signs and symptoms as I experienced a very unique presentation of asthma. This coupled with the fact that I had learnt to tolerate prolonged periods of severe asthma as my new ‘normal’ meant that my suffering was often masked from those around me.

I felt isolated. I wondered if it was my fault. Was I not controlling my asthma well enough? I had to spend a lot of time alone. Asthma attacks forced me to miss school, work, social activities. It made me moody and at times depressed.

My asthma also impacted my nursing career. I was anxious I wouldn’t even finish university because of all the sick leave I took and exams I had to make up. After I worked hard and finished my nursing degree, I was then worried I wouldn’t even get a full-time job because of all the sick leave I’d taken. I just wanted to be a good nurse and assist others, and I could barely keep myself healthy.

And then, things got much worse.

Hitting rock bottom

One day, I had the worst asthma attack of my life. It was terrifying feeling like I couldn’t breathe at all. I had been in the ICU for a week when the doctor said he didn’t know what more they could do for me. I genuinely thought I was going to die.

Everything changed when my specialist asked for a second opinion. This new doctor—who’s now my specialist—looked at my biomarkers and also saw that I had an atopic dermatitis flare-up on my neck. He thought about type 2 inflammation.

My doctors ran tests which confirmed that my asthma is driven by something called type 2 inflammation. He told me it was an overactive immune response that can trigger some diseases like asthma and atopic dermatitis.

It was honestly a major relief. There was finally a reason why I felt the way I did. I now knew it was not my fault.

And that knowledge helped me get to where I am now.

A new chapter with asthma

When I found out about type 2 inflammation, I was able to really understand what was going on with my asthma, and how it connects to my atopic dermatitis.

My family and doctors understand me better, too. They know that I can’t just control my breathing. And that led to new opportunities with my management plan.

I feel like I can be a better, more empathetic nurse for my patients. I can help them advocate for themselves, like I had to do.

I have also been able to go back to running and being active with my family, something I love – I am no longer on the sidelines.

My journey with type 2 inflammatory diseases has had so many ups and downs. It’s taught me so much, and I’m so proud of the healthy, independent, responsible, strong-willed person I am today.

Rhiannon, Australia