During my Junior Year English class this past year, my teacher challenged us to follow in Ernest Hemingway’s footsteps and create a six word story that represented the entirety of our lives. Many of my fellow classmates crafted their sentences with humor, regarding failing classes or silly memories, but I simply could not follow in their footsteps. I began to reflect on my seventeen years on this planet, and realized that I was unable to recall most of them. They were a blur of doctor visits and pharmacy runs; endless puffs of the inhaler that kept me alive. Ever since I contracted pneumonia at the age of six, I had to learn more than how to spell asthma, I had to learn how to live with it.
Today I have completed my instruction and am stronger. I wake up in the morning, take a deep breath to level how tight my chest is, and decide whether I need to continue my dependency on Dulera, a type of long-lasting inhaler, or whether I can brave the day without it. Then, I travel downstairs, allergy medication in hand, and check the pollen levels. I eat breakfast and go through the day’s rhythms, and if I happen to cross paths with a stranger, they would never know the walls of my bronchial tubes are constantly inflamed. My difference is invisible, and so am I on countless occasions when illness keeps me from school, dance, and other activities. What is a simple cold to another with an immune system ten times stronger than mine, is a crippling illness that can keep me bed-ridden and away from academia for days on end.
All in all, my difference makes me work harder towards my goals and my desires. I have to spend more free periods in Calculus help to reach that A plus and sacrifice a few more hours at the dance studio to perfect my Pointe routines. Sometimes I crave the ability to fight off colds in a matter of hours, but I would miss the satisfaction of accomplishing what I have worked so very hard for. Asthma may restrict my abilities in the world of gym class and sports, but it certainly does not restrict capability to write, read, and dream. My lungs cannot force me to shut off my imagination, cease typing, or peel my eyes off the page of a good book. A tough cough cannot make me reconsider my dreams to become a published author one day or to help others through the world of medicine.
My name is Sydney Rose Hotz and I am a teenager with asthma and all the same dreams, emotions, and experiences of anyone else. Sure, I may feel strange showing up at school in third period because my lungs could not handle the cold morning air, but the caring fellow students and teachers melt away my concern and ease my worry. My peers may not understand why I need to take a nap afterschool to rest and recharge or why I have to walk the two laps on the field in gym class. I still get strange looks when I have to use my rescue inhaler in the middle of class, but I no longer need to hide my difference. It used to bother me, along with the fact that I will never be someone I’m not, someone with fully functional lungs and a resilient immune system. After a bit of explaining to my peers and eleven years of experience in asthma, the fear of being judged for my lungs’ inability has disappeared. My difference is what makes me unique, and allows me to make a variety of medical jokes in gym class and beyond. I am not ashamed of my asthmatic label, I am proud of all the challenges I have overcome thanks to it.
One step at a time, inhaler in hand, I will fulfill my dreams and live life to the fullest. My Hemingway story may be “No Apple Keeps the Doctor Away”, yet maybe that is because I will be the aforementioned doctor in the near future.
To read Sydney’s post on Scholastic’s TeenBeing blog, click here!