June 20, 2016

Jeannette Neil – COPD

At the age of 12 I had sinus problems. The advice I received from the doctor was to not drink milk and not to put my head under water as it may aggravate the symptoms. Many years later in my twenties I was breast feeding my first chid when I unexpectedly experienced my first asthma attack. It came as a shock to me as I was a fit young woman who played tennis at the time and was a non-smoker.  However, back then you could go into the pharmacy without a prescription and get drugs over the counter. When I needed to relieve my symptoms I didn’t go to the doctor, I’d just buy what I needed to get me through the day.

I lived and worked in Singapore and Hong Kong for over 12 years and put my symptoms down to the climate of those countries. But went I went on a trip to Las Vegas I remember getting of the plane and thinking ‘wow, it’s so dry and I can breathe easy’. This made me think that living in Singapore and Hong Kong was the reason behind my breathing problems and not some underlying health issue.

My symptoms of asthma faded after a while and it wasn’t until I was 60 when I started to notice shortness of breath and my coughing increasing. When I went to the doctor I was diagnosed with COPD. That was back in 2000. When initially diagnosed I remember enjoying going to the local hospital for physio. I exercised a lot then and learnt breathing exercises. I remember whenever I have shortness of breath to ‘sit down and smell the roses and then blow out the candles’. I still use this method today to control my breathing if I experience exacerbations.

Unfortunately, now I’m 76 my COPD condition has started to limit my ability to do things. I can’t put out the washing, play lawn bowls or run after my seven grandchildren and great granddaughter but I’m happy I don’t have an oxygen tank and can still drive, which gives me a sense of freedom.

My advice to people is DON’T ignore your symptoms. Breathlessness and/or cough are not normal.