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I Love My Life! Living Strong with a Chronic Illness

With a little help from your friends and family, you can still love your life and have fun if you're a teenager living with a chronic illness.


Rob, the band's guitarist, was first diagnosed with asthma at age 7. Since then, he has relied on inhaled medications to prevent and treat the symptoms of asthma, such as coughing and wheezing. "But when I hit puberty, my asthma exploded," says Rob. "I remember waking up all night coughing, and then feeling exhausted the next day. I was on the rowing team and swim team. Many times, I'd stop competing because I couldn't stop coughing. I couldn't breathe, and I'd have to use my inhalers. I hated the way asthma slowed me down."

Rob's allergist explained how asthma caused his airways to become inflamed and why daily medication -- even when he didn't feel the symptoms -- was important to keep him breathing right. "My doctor gave me inhalers and a peak flow meter, a hand-held device that let me monitor my breathing at home and at school," Rob says. "I learned to pre-medicate before swim meets or crew races. I also learned that swimming could help build healthier lungs. At first, I was angry that I had asthma. After a while, I realized I had to manage it in order to love my life."

Living with a chronic illness is not easy for Rob or Gary. While they've both had their share of successes, they've also had some scares. "Once our band opened for the Dave Matthews Band in Alabama," Rob says. "We were so pumped! Then, after the gig, we checked into a hotel. We noticed that Gary looked confused, and then he started throwing up: he was in diabetic shock. We were so frightened, so I called 911 for help."

Gary says that the band members help him to stay on track with his diet and insulin checks. "If I miss a check, Rob's nagging me. Or if I eat the wrong food, Ethan [the lead singer] takes it away from me. Our band is great -- but only when we're all healthy," he says.

Rob agrees, saying friends need to help each other deal with their problems in life -- so everyone wins. "Many times Gary or Ethan has reminded me to grab my inhaler before we head out of town."

Living Strong

In 1996, Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer -- a serious form of cancer that gave him only a 3% chance of survival.

Rather than admitting defeat, Armstrong chose intense rounds of chemotherapy. His doctors were amazed by his willpower and ability to block out pessimism. Even though the cancer spread to his brain and lungs and one of his testicles had to be surgically removed, Lance Armstrong beat the odds. He believed that he could win -- not just in beating cancer, but also in winning the Tour de France, the most prestigious bicycle race in the world. Lance went on to win this race seven times in a row.

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