Doctors Said I Wouldn't Live Past High School Graduation. Now I'm 28 And Strong.

Cosmopolitan | Kira Peikoff


The Symptoms

Growing up, Carson Smith was an athletic wunderkind: she ran her first 5K at age six, she played competitive soccer and softball at age eight, and biked 25 miles at age nine. But around 6th grade, she started to notice a problem: She was gasping for breath whenever she exercised.

"I thought, I must be out of shape," she remembers. "So I trained even harder, but it never got any better."

Chalking it up to exercise-induced asthma, she saw her pediatrician in seventh grade and got a low-dose inhaler. By then, she was running every day for soccer and still had to sit down to catch her breath at least twice each practice.

One day, while she was sitting on the bleachers trying to breathe, her friend ran over to her mid-asthma attack. Carson quickly handed over inhaler and watched in amazement as her friend's throat cleared up after only a single puff. She realized the inhaler wasn't working for her.

So she went to a pulmonologist in her town of Paducah, Kentucky, who first gave her a stronger inhaler, and when that also failed to ease her breathing, he prescribed a high dose of steroids. By now, she was 15 years old, still working out hard, and involved in a variety of activities from student government to mock trial to the debate team.

"I promise you will not have trouble breathing after this," he told her.

But she did. At a loss, the pulmonologist referred her to an allergist, who ran a battery of tests and found very little on which to pin her shortness of breath. He told her it was probably because she was stressed out from all her activities along with the pressure to keep up her straight As. Continue reading