Outdoor adventures, like taking walks in the Hollywood Hills, were always a central part of E! News host Nina Parker’s social life—until she was diagnosed with asthma in late 2019. “Living in LA, everyone is very active, and going for a hike with friends is like getting together for coffee,” Parker says. “But I thought I couldn’t do those things anymore because I felt insecure about huffing and puffing and using an inhaler all the time.”
Looking back, Parker feels like she had put herself into an “asthma box”—a mindset in which she had given up on spending time with friends outdoors because she thought that’s what people with asthma, particularly asthma that can be considered severe, were supposed to do. It wasn’t until she started opening up to family and friends, and worked to find a doctor who helped her establish a management plan for her asthma that she was able to get back to living life more on her own terms.
For many people living with asthma, Parker’s story probably sounds familiar. That’s why Parker has teamed up with AstraZeneca and Amgen to share her story as part of Break the Cycle, a campaign that encourages anyone living with asthma to work to understand their level of control and partner with a doctor to find a management plan that’s right for them. “I’m really excited to spread the word,” she says, “because I think a lot of people feel like they’re living in a box they may not belong in.”
It all starts with a diagnosis
A common misunderstanding about asthma is that it’s a childhood illness, and that people who have asthma just need to use an inhaler once in a while when they feel out of breath. The reality is that asthma is a complex spectrum of diseases caused by inflammation in the airway, and it affects everyone differently.
Parker hadn’t experienced any symptoms of asthma until she was an adult, when she started to feel like her breathing had changed and things that should be easy – like climbing the stairs—became very challenging. “At first, it was something I just lived with,” she says. “But then a couple years ago, I was recording a story for Instagram, and when I played it back, I heard this strange heavy breathing in the background. It took a minute to realize it was me.”
That was when Parker decided she needed to seek a diagnosis for her breathing challenges. “It took a while to figure out exactly what was causing my breathing issues, but I went to see a specialist for a second opinion, and that’s when I learned I had asthma.”
From living in a box to helping break the asthma cycle
An asthma attack can happen when a trigger, usually some type of airborne particle, like smoke or pollen, gets into the airway, causing the person’s own immune system to kick start a cascade of inflammation that constricts their breathing. These attacks can be severe and can require emergency medical care, so it’s easy to realize the importance of understanding and managing triggers.
But for Parker, giving up on the activities she loved also had unintended consequences for her overall health. “I stopped working out—stopped doing a lot of things—because I thought I couldn't do it with asthma,” she says. “It wasn’t until I got a personal trainer, who also happens to live with asthma, that I understood I could still do many of the things I love as long as I take certain precautions.
Being open and transparent about asthma
One of the realizations Parker gained through her asthma journey is the importance of being open and proactive about what’s going on with her health. “On TV, I’m known for being very open and transparent about my personal life, but when it came to being active with my girlfriends, I felt embarrassed about needing to slow down or use an inhaler,” she says. “What's funny is that after I started talking about my struggles living with asthma, other people in my life opened up about their own experiences with asthma, and it made me feel a lot more comfortable.”
The same goes for her experience with her doctor—the need to open up in order find the right match to understand her diagnosis and come up with a management plan. That’s why Nina is thrilled to be partnering with AstraZeneca and Amgen to tell this story and reach people who may be living with asthma.
To hear more about Nina’s story, and to click through helpful tools and resources to understand and manage asthma, visit BreakTheCycle.com.