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."
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.