Diagnosed with asthma at a young age, Renee’s symptoms came back in full force later in life. A member of the Lung Association’s Asthma Patient Advocacy Group and a Veteran, Renee shares how serving in the military impacts her lung disease management and her desire to help others.
I served in the Army. My job was administrative, and I did paperwork for the soldiers who were being deployed around the world. Being organized was something I was good at, and my time in the Army made me even better. There’s nothing ‘basic’ about basic training, or boot camp as it is often called. Required of all enlisted soldiers in the Army, this intense military training taught me discipline, structure, teamwork and so much more.
You don’t lose that after you leave. Just going through basic training alone changed how I viewed life and my affairs – good and bad times included. I realized if I could get through basic training, I knew I could get through anything. And I’ll never forget the pride I felt when I graduated.
When I first started basic training, I couldn’t do a single pushup and struggled with the 20-mile marches. But I learned, and carry on to this day, that even when I feel exhausted, I know to keep going and I’ll get a second wind. I remember falling asleep while marching and waking up when I hit the ground. My eyes were open, but I was asleep on that 20-mile march. But when I hit the ground, I woke up, got up and kept going.
Basic Training and Asthma Basics
I remember in basic training my commander telling me to remake my bed again and again. I had to practice doing it correctly. To this day, the way I make my bed is impacted by the time I spent in the Army. It’s like that with my asthma too. I learned to apply discipline and structure to all aspects of my life, and you need that for the self-management of asthma. I just never give up on controlling my asthma. Something kicks in and I have to be strong.
A few years back, there was a time I was walking up the stairs and couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t breathe air out and there was no space in my lungs to breathe in, so I wasn’t able to use my inhaler to get relief from my asthma. We had to call 911 and I was rushed to the hospital for breathing treatments. I always have my emergency inhaler on me, but I also know that asthma attacks can be sudden and severe, and when to call for help. My asthma is well controlled now, but I still on occasion have asthma symptoms flare up, thankfully nothing like that scary moment. I have a plan to manage my asthma and I use that same discipline and structure woven throughout my life to keep me going.
A Drive to Help Others
Another thing I learned in the Army, we never leave a man behind. It became engrained in me to always help others along the way. I have a really big heart and my time in the military helped grow and structure that part of me. I volunteer with the American Lung Association because I believe it is part of my purpose in life and helping others is at the core of who I am.
As a member of the Asthma Patient Advisory Group with the Lung Association, I’m so lucky to be able to put my organizational and analytical skills to good work. I have the privilege of being part of the team who reviews research proposals put forth for funding and provide my feedback as a patient living with lung disease. I get to see the problems these researchers are trying to fix and how that research, if funded, could help so many people. It’s amazing how aware the researchers are of what patients need and their ideas for improvement. Being part of that process makes me feel good and gives me hope for people living with lung disease, including myself.
Celebrating Veterans Day
Veterans are so incredibly selfless. They put everyone before themselves and that’s no small thing with the way the world is and the conflicts across the globe. We need to recognize Veterans for their contributions and treat them with dignity. The way you honor a Veteran is to make sure they are taken care of. These people are national treasures. It’s unacceptable that so many are homeless or without medical care.
A Note from the American Lung Association
Veterans day is a day for honoring all Veterans. We invite you to reach out to the Veterans in your life, acknowledge their contributions and sacrifices and thank them for their service. As a first step, you are encouraged to watch 15 Things Veterans Want You to Know to better connect with and support anyone in your life who served in the United States Armed Forces.
Blog last updated: November 14, 2023