My Asthma Journey: Connecting With My Allergist

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I started dancing in middle school because I wanted to get a girl to notice me. And I got the girl—for a little bit. But even after our pre-teen relationship ended, dancing stayed with me. And so did my asthma. Today, I’m a professional dancer, actor, model and stunt man, and my asthma is under control. But that only happened after I finally started seeing a specialist to get the right treatment.

Long before I even knew I wanted to dance, I would have to go to the school nurse and take two puffs of my inhaler before recess every day. I played a lot of sports as a kid, too: basketball, football, boxing, and mixed martial arts. I would need my inhaler frequently throughout practice and games. Once I joined a dance team, I’d get frustrated that my chest felt really tight by the end of warm-ups. There were times when I was very self-conscious about the fact that we’d barely even started and I was already struggling. I didn’t let my asthma hold me back—I was stubborn and would keep going even if I was short of breath, thinking I could just push through it. I was always fighting my asthma, and my many asthma attacks showed me I was losing the fight.

My parents are immigrants and we didn’t have a lot of money when I was young, so treating my asthma was challenging at times. I usually would go to the pharmacy and buy an over-the-counter inhaler that’s not available anymore. I didn’t know if it was the correct dosage or medicine, but I didn’t have a lot of other options. I remember having a very bad asthma attack when I was 17 or 18, and I was brought to an urgent care clinic. The doctor there had me do a breath strength test and then handed me a couple pills and called it a day. I told the doctor I thought I needed an inhaler, but he just said I’d be fine with the pills. That’s when I realized how important it was to see a doctor who knows my history and what I’m going through.

Searching for a Doctor

After that, I started looking for a physician who could really get to know me and treat my asthma effectively. I went to a bunch of primary care doctors in my neighborhood and tried to explain my situation to them. Some said my asthma was just allergies, and others said it was caused by different things, but none of them really listened to me explain how long I’d had symptoms and what worked and what didn’t. I was open to their suggestions, and I tried the pills they prescribed, but nothing really controlled my asthma. Finally, the topic came up with a friend of a friend, and he recommended I go see an allergist he knew. I went to see her and she blew my mind. She made me see my asthma in a whole different light.

The allergist listened to me and asked lots of questions. She really took her time to understand my asthma. Most of the doctors I’d seen before said, “Oh, you have asthma? Here, take this pill.” But the allergist asked me how long I’d had asthma, when my symptoms were most severe, what my symptoms felt like, and other questions to get to know the situation. You’d think these questions would be obvious, but no other doctor had asked them. I told her I felt congested a lot, like I couldn’t breathe, and my chest would feel really tight, so I’d take my inhaler. She suggested those symptoms were more related to allergies, so the inhaler wouldn’t help with them. She told me I had activity-induced asthma, but she thought the allergies were playing a key role, too. She prescribed me allergy medicine, and when my chest got tight and I felt congested, I’d take the pills instead of my inhaler. It really worked—I was finally able to breathe.

She helped me realize I was using my inhaler like a cure-all every time it was hard to breathe, and that wasn’t sustainable. She taught me about the potential triggers of my asthma and the best ways to prevent and treat flare-ups. Now, instead of using my inhaler all the time with minimal results, I take allergy medicine to keep my symptoms at bay. Today, I rarely ever have to grab my inhaler. I always have it in my backpack with me, just in case, but even when I’m traveling, dancing, or working out, I don’t typically need it. I’m much smarter about controlling my asthma now, and it’s all because I found a specialist who listens to me and knows how to help me manage it.

Be Smart About Treating Your Asthma

Because I’m in control of my asthma, I can pursue my dream of performing. Part of me is glad I’m so stubborn, because it’s helped me become a working performer. But I wish I hadn’t been so stubborn about my asthma treatment. I tried my best to power through activity and not let my asthma hold me back, but that wasn’t enough. I’m in control of my asthma and doing what I love because I realized, thanks to my allergist, that I didn’t need to fight my asthma; it’s not my enemy. My advice to others like me is this: get to know your asthma. Get to know your body and how your heart and lungs respond to different triggers. Once you understand your asthma and treat it properly, you can control it—and that gives you the power to focus on pursuing your goals.

Kouryou Ngin is a dancer, actor, model, and stunt man working in New York City.

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