Actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth is well known for her roles on hit television shows like Pushing Daisies and Glee and on Broadway in the ever-popular musical Wicked. But you may not know Chenoweth's most recent role as spokesperson for Know Your Count, a campaign sponsored by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Ten years ago, Chenoweth was diagnosed with asthma, a condition that affects nearly 25 million Americans.
"I was diagnosed not long after 9/11. I was in New York when it happened and in the weeks following, I just couldn't catch my breath," said Chenoweth. "I was coughing and coughing and then I got sick and suffered with walking pneumonia for a while. Finally, my mom told me I needed to get to the doctor and find out what was wrong with me."
The diagnosis could have derailed Chenoweth's award-winning career, but by working with her doctor to get her symptoms under control, she has been able to manage the condition without skipping a beat.
"I've never had a major attack but I've had episodes that occurred at a number of times so now I'm one of those people that have an inhaler on me at all times," said Chenoweth.
Yet, after 10 years living with asthma, why is Chenoweth speaking out now?
"You know, I've had success in a lot of different arenas but in the same breath, a lot of people know I've had challenges," said Chenoweth. "I have a bad neck and an inner ear problem and I just felt a little embarrassed to say that I have this, too."
When the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) approached the celebrity, Chenoweth thought it was a great opportunity to share her story and hopefully encourage others to be vigilant about their health.
"Life can sometimes look so easy and breezy and fabulous for someone (and believe me, I'm not complaining), but it's equally important to know what kind of challenges that person is dealing with, too," said Chenoweth.
The Know Your Count initiative encourages those with asthma to use inhalers that include a dose counter to be aware of how much medicine is left. Asthma suffers can easily request a dose counter from their doctors.
"It sounds very simple and it is," said Chenoweth. "It's so funny, I just recently went through my medicine cabinet, looking at a bunch of the old prescriptions, and I noticed that I had a lot of old inhalers that didn't have a dose counter and I just thought, what a waste."
Dose counters aside, Chenoweth also stresses the importance of a cardiovascular workout for asthma sufferers.
"When I do my cardio, I'm less concerned with a great physique and more worried about my heart health," said Chenoweth. "Especially for people with asthma, it's important to keep our lungs and heart healthy and cardio can do just that."
Chenoweth's cardio of choice is usually on an elliptical or treadmill but she also considers walking or taking the stairs as part of her daily workout.
"People often think that little things like taking the stairs doesn't help much, but it really does make a difference," said Chenoweth.
Looking back at her diagnosis, Chenoweth likes to view her condition with an optimistic attitude.
"I don't want to focus on the negative so a positive thing that came out of the diagnosis is that I'm way more aware of my body now," said Chenoweth. "When I listen to my body, it's everything in moderation. I'm not perfect — I love chocolate but at the same time I want to be here for a while."
You can see Chenoweth tonight when she performs the National Anthem during Asthma Awareness Night at the Phillies game. Fans will also have the chance to visit asthma screening stations located at the Ballpark. More details here.
Also, for every person who visits the Know Your Count website and takes the asthma pledge, Teva Respiratory will donate one dollar to fund a trip to summer camp for kids who have asthma.