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  3. Blogging Online Helped Me Find My Asthma “Family”

Blogging Online Helped Me Find My Asthma “Family”

Getty Images / gradyreese

Asthma can be a challenging condition to manage, and it can often feel isolating for those with it.

However, thanks to the internet, people with asthma can connect with others who understand what they’re going through. For aspiring writers, blogging about their asthma can lead to sharing tips and tricks for managing symptoms with other authors, which may later develop into genuine connections. 

Feeling alone after her asthma diagnosis, Kerri MacKay started blogging and joined online communities in search of others who shared her experience. Read her story below.

When I was diagnosed with asthma a month before my 17th birthday, I struggled to find people like me.

It seemed like everyone else had either figured out their asthma already or was in the process of figuring it out. Many, if not most, people were diagnosed as kids. I hoped to find someone like me — someone diagnosed in their teenage years.

My friends from school with asthma seemed to have everything under control. Most only needed one inhaler that they used a few times a year. I was on a hunt for "my people," which wasn't easy!

Eventually, though, things began to fall into place. Here's how I discovered my asthma family.

Planting the seeds: joining online asthma communities

In times like these, it’s important to remember the power of the internet and how much community you can build online. In December 2008, I started a blog. At this point, I'd been living with asthma for 10 months. I found the blogs of a few people who would soon become my friends: Stephen of “Breathinstephen,” Amy of “The Asthma Mom” (her blog has since been taken down for her daughter’s privacy), and Danielle of “Life with These Lungs” (also since removed).

As a newbie, these three, in particular, gave me insights that only veterans of a lifestyle could provide. I’d finally found my people.

I identified most with Danielle. Like me, she was a 20-something Canadian university student. Sometimes, we'd find each other online at the same time, rapidly commenting on someone's blog post in what we called a "blog comment party." These people became my core group of asthma friends in those earlier days with asthma.

As the years progressed, I connected with more and more people. Though at first not a blogger, Elisheva from Israel became one of my closest asthma friends early on, and we still chat regularly. John from Michigan, a respiratory therapist, and blogger, would also join our discussions. Eventually, I'd even become close with European people, like Natasha from the Netherlands and Olivia from Scotland.

In 2015-2016 I became very close with a young woman named Simi from England. Our friendship went beyond asthma. We spent hours on Skype talking about life and future plans and seeking tips from one another. We watched hours of “The Jeremy Kyle Show” on YouTube after she showed me how much of a train wreck it was. We even wanted to go to a live filming one day, but we never got the chance.

Sadly, Simi passed away unexpectedly of asthma-related causes in August 2016. It was the first time I'd experienced the loss of someone I'd never met in person. But just like losing an in-person relationship, it was tough. I'd texted her from a concert mere hours before she passed.

A primarily "online family" becomes much the same as an in-person one. You ride out every wave together, experiencing triumphs, sorrows, laughter, frustration, and, the same way you would in reality, death. At this time, too, I found comfort in the online community as I grappled with losing Simi. Several of her closest in-person friends in the UK were ones she had also met because of asthma.

Meeting my online asthma friends IRL

I’ve been fortunate to take many of my online asthma friendships offline. 

The first friend I met in person was Rona. We met at a vegetarian restaurant in Chicago, and I'm pretty sure we didn't discuss asthma — just how it should be! Then, I met Stephen in September 2012 in San Francisco. In some ways, Steve and I couldn't be more opposite, and in many more, we couldn't be more similar. It's why he's easily one of my best friends.

D and I have only met twice. Both times were at Chinook Centre in Calgary, where we bought too many candies. And then there's Dia. I can't even begin to count how many hours we've spent on the phone, in addition to the times we've been able to spend together at conferences and when I've been in Toronto. Dia and I also exist in similar worlds involving sports and non-profits.

My asthma family consists of the people with asthma I am closest to online, a number I could probably count on two hands.

Online friendships can have patterns and ups and downs, the same as in-person ones

I’ve probably taken more “advice” than I should from people I only knew via a computer screen at the time. While you should always consult a doctor first, these people and their experiences are what took me from surviving and existing with asthma to thriving.

When you're building an online family, you get to choose. Too many people online and living with asthma only see the negatives. Be discerning about who you choose to become close to. You don't have to be the hero, and you can choose not to deal with people who seem overly dramatic.

Like offline relationships, online ones can and do change as well. And like offline relationships, sometimes you have to consciously cut yourself off from people. It's okay to do that if they are not building you up or you find yourself preoccupied. Your mental (and physical) health isn't worth the drama some people exude or seem to attract.

The impact of growing an “asthma family tree” 

Like any friends, you become friends online with people who share similar interests, desires, and ways of thinking.

There's the cliché that you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family. The "asthma family" is a bit of both — we didn't choose to have asthma, but we can choose the people we share our experiences with.

And, like all friends, it's essential to choose people who will positively influence you and build you up to be better — even with asthma. So, when planting the seeds for your "asthma family tree," start by ensuring you've got the right mindset about asthma, too. This way, your roots won't drag you down; they'll allow you to flourish and grow instead.

I’ve said this for years: “We became friends because of asthma; we stay friends because of awesome.” It’s true. My asthma friends are my friends because of mutual awesomeness, just like any friends are.

The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.

The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen. 

NPS-ALL-NP-00941 MAY 2023

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