Taking a Breath

October 23 2019

Lung Foundation Australia sat down with Support Group Leader Annie Buckley from the NT Breathe Easy S.T.A.A.R.S. to chat about how she became involved in the support group, what she thinks about self-care and how she incorporates it into her life.

What is your connection with lung disease?

In 2006, after coming up our stairs, my husband Jim said to me “Gee Annie, that was hard to get up those stairs.” 

He went to our doctor, who referred him to a lung specialist in Perth, where our daughter lived. It was only a short time later when he flew to Perth to     stay with our daughter and see the lung specialist. Our daughter barely recognised him when he got off the plane because in that time his condition had declined so rapidly.

Jim was subsequently diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis and needed to go on oxygen.

How and why do you lead the support group?

Jim felt uncomfortable on oxygen, so the doctors at the hospital suggested he join a support group, which he did. I asked, “Am I able to come with you?” and so I went with him.

When Jim passed away, I looked at all those people suffering with lung conditions and I thought, “How do they all manage to do things?” and made the decision that I would have to stay on with the support group, so here we are.

How many members are there in your support group?

25 and growing! It started with approximately 10 people then to 20 and now to 25 plus and growing. We get people calling Lung Foundation Australia who are referred to our group. We started monthly meetings, then went to fortnightly and now we meet every Monday for coffee in between meetings. We do Body Fit Lungs in Action every Tuesday and Thursday and we have guest speakers come to our meetings and bus outings twice a year.

What motivates you every day?

My day is planned, my calendar is full. I enjoy going to the gym. You make friends at these places that you don’t necessarily see socially outside of the gym. When you do go, you get to chat and talk about each other’s lives. I love it, if I can’t go, I feel disappointed.

How do you practice self-care?

I started walking and going to gym in 2004 and lost 30 kilos and maintained the weight loss. I have never looked back and I don’t intend to. I do pump classes (weights classes) 3 days a week and Body Fit Lungs in Action on Tuesdays.

I also took up quilting in 2012 and I am on the Quilting Exhibition Committee. I also have two kids, love to travel and socialise and to have coffee every Monday with friends is pretty good. (laughs)

How do you feel after practicing self-care?

BEAUT!!!

On the hard days, how do you make time for you?

Generally, the hard days are anniversaries, but I find something I like to do which is usually quilting. It is very enjoyable and very relaxing. It takes up a lot of time and there is great companionship.   I have been on the committee of the Quilt Club for most of those years. The government provides us with our own space free of charge and we are the head tenants and we can come and quilt three to four days a week. We make quilts for charity and teach new stitching techniques and have a Christmas Club group.

What would be your ideal day?

My ideal day would be gym, coffee with friends, gardening, sewing, relaxing – in any order.

Do you encourage the support group members to take time out for themselves?

Yes, I do it is very important to do the things they like.

Can you provide an example of a time when you practiced self-care and how did it help?

Everyday, I just do things, I don’t really think about it, I just carry on, you have to get on with it.

Do you have any advice to other support group leaders?

You have to be positive and you have to be caring, be as happy as you can be, smile and be relaxed and just show that you care about the group. Listening is very important. Trying to understand where they are at and help them through, that’s all I can do and I am happy to do that!

Annie has maintained and grown her social connections and has kept a strong focus on taking time to participate in physical activity for her physical health and mental well-being. Annie is a fantastic role model for looking after yourself so you can continue to help others in the community.

If you are interested in joining a Pulmonary Rehabilitation program or a Lungs in Action exercise class for people with lung conditions, please contact the Information and Support Centre on 1800 654 301 or email enquiries@lungfoundation.com.au.

For more information about Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Lungs in Action classes, click here.