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Nancy S., MT

I was first diagnosed with asthma at age 16 but didn’t have a major problem until my early 20s when I moved in with friends who had cats. I kept getting sicker and sicker until finally I ended up in the hospital for 10 days. I was sedated and intubated and given massive doses of steroids.

When I was finally discharged, I had learned my lesson. I moved into a very clean studio apartment without cats! The second time I was in trouble with my asthma was when I was pregnant with my first child and staying with friends who had pets. When my asthma acted up, I wound up in the hospital being monitored for a week. They couldn't give me steroids until after the first trimester of pregnancy had passed.

I'm in my 60s now, and for the most part my asthma is under control. Although I take daily medication, I always make sure to have my rescue inhaler when I leave home, especially if I'm going hiking or skiing.

When your lungs tighten up, it can be scary. I've learned that relaxation exercises, breathing deeply and visualizing open lungs can be very helpful.

I live in Missoula, MT, not far from the railroad tracks. We're facing the possibility of dozens of coal trains going through with open containers on their way to West Coast ports and then China. That could be a nightmare for me. I wish they'd either leave the coal in the ground and concentrate on alternative energy or figure out a better way to burn coal without the air pollution. It might be costly, but the way I see it, we will be paying for it one way or another. I would much rather spare my lungs.

First published: February 7, 2013

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