It was a cold day and I could feel my feet beginning to get cold. A little itch began to creep up my throat, bringing out a small cough - much better. Slowly, but surely this itch grew and my coughing grew harsher. I thought nothingof it as it was winter and a little coughing never killed anyone. Then it started to hit me, the tightness of my chest, the sudden inability to breathe. I was taking a shower and for whatever reason I thought it was the hot, humid air that was making it harder to breathe; I opened the window and sucked in big mouthfuls of the crisp winter air. It was only much later that I would learn that cold air would have exactly the opposite effect on my condition.

Coming out of the shower, I was gasping for breath. Each and every breath was an immensely tough task as I struggled to get enough oxygen into my lungs. My parents were concerned and doing a quick Google search yielded results: I probably had asthma. Later I would realize that this Korean word that I had all my childhood was actually Korean for asthma - I never thought much of it then, and why should I have? I had never experienced anything like this and the worst of it was just a bit of coughing. I went with my dad to the pharmacy close by but even getting there was an ordeal in itself. Each step was heavy and it felt as if I couldn’t hold my own body up.

I’ll never forget buying the medicine and taking a puff of the inhaler in the crips winter air. Suddenly, I felt a sensation of my airways opening up and I felt better. After that, I’d find myself depending on this little piece of plastic and metal to save me from my inability to breathe properly. But things didn’t work out perfectly, from that moment on I’d experience the worst my asthma had to offer. I often found myself coughing and unable to breathe - even my medication didn’t help for long. Sleeping was a nightmare, whenever I lay down my lungs would feel even heavier and breathing was absolutely out of the question. Many things triggered this: cold air, allergens, sickness. Eac time, I was miserable and I envied my friends who didn’t have this condition.

In middle school, I’d often find myself having to take a break while playing handball and use my inhaler. After that I’d be pretty much good to go all day. Sure, it was a hindrance but I never gave it much thought except when I felt like dying in one of those episodes. Then I got to high school and forced to run as part of my gym class. The first few were okay surprisingly, but as winter came around I found myself struggling to keep up with my class mates. It was infuriating. It wasn’t because of my unwillingness nor laziness - it was a physical inability to keep up to those who could breathe freely.

I’m going to be honest, it made me feel terrible. All I wanted in life was to not have this condition affecting me, to be able to physically exert myself with my stamina being the limit not my lungs. I’m sure people understand the feeling of hopelessness as they see others exceeding what they are capable of doing. Despite that, I tried my best and for an asthmatic that seemed like he was going to die after every run, I’d like to think I did okay. But I was never content as I felt that the limiting factor in 99% of the scenarios wasmy asthma. Joining track just exacerbated this issue as I found myself even further behind than usual - after all this was the group of people who put their all into running.

Despite all that, I kept pushing myself. Seeing these other people made me want to be like them. Asthma? Who cares. If they could do it, then I can as well. With this mentality I kept pushing myself in running. I’ve missed out on running in gym once because of my asthma (it was especially bad that time), and I made up that run later on. During workout, even if I were far behind I’d just try my best to finish. At that point it didn’t matter that I was the last one, it just mattered that I finished what I had started. Running and asthma really changed how I think and added willpower to my personality. Yet, there’s not a day that goes by in which I hope that one day I won’t have to deal with this and I can be free. Until then, I won’t use it as an excuse, people have done much more with a greater handicap. It’s just how I am and I accept that.