Back in the Before (2019) I came down with a horrible coughing illness that (after several doses of antibiotics failed to have an effect and I was referred to a specialist) turned out to be Whooping Cough.

I didn’t realise whooping cough was something people still got in modern times. To me it sounded like something out of a Victorian-era novel. I didn’t even know there was a vaccine for it. (A vaccine that apparently people of my age missed out on receiving.)

As part of the testing to confirm my lungs had not been compromised by over a month of horrendous choking coughs, the specialist put me through some kind of choking lung capacity test where I had to inhale increasing amounts of ‘dust’ and keep breathing. This test revealed I had asthma.

Of course I responded with a hearty pfft to that. I have lived many years of my life without ever having experienced an asthma attack. The test couldn’t be right.

She tried to reassure me – being an asthmatic puts me at the front of the queue for certain things, like flu vaccinations. She encouraged me to talk to my local doctor, get myself registered with their asthma clinic, make sure I was in the queue for the priority treatment that asthmatics are entitled to.

Of course I didn’t do any of that, because in my mind, I was still stubbornly not asthmatic.

Husband thought I should probably listen to the doctor. “After all you do get out of breath whenever you walk up even a small hill.”

“That’s just me being unfit,” I persisted.

But I did print out the specialist’s letter confirming my asthmas test results. And I thought about dropping it off to my local GP one day. But time passed, I didn’t do it, the print out got lost, and I continued to not have any asthma attacks.

Skip ahead to early September. I’m on my long-anticipated safari holiday. I’ve had a week of camping where it has rained most evenings, which means sleeping in a wet tent with all the windows zipped down to keep out the rain. The camping mattresses keep me off the ground and my sleeping bag keeps me warm but still I am coughing.

I cough all day. I especially cough at night.

There is a nurse on the trip. She’s on holiday but she’s still a nurse and she carries a bag of medicines with her. She hears me coughing one morning and offers me her spare Ventolin inhaler. (Ventolin being a common asthma medication for those who don’t know what it is.)

Of course I took it. Of course it helped… somewhat. The cough was not asthma but possibly the tightness of breathing that came with the cough and the cold weather was asthma.

I’ve been back a week now. I still have the cough. I still have an unhappy tightness in my lungs when I breathe. I’m still taking Ventolin occasionally. It still helps.

I think the time has come to admit I am an asthmatic and to take some responsibility for my lung health.

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