A steady hand in an often rough sea.
When Eric Ashenden was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease about 14 years ago, his one mission was to arm himself with knowledge to navigate this next chapter of his story.
It was during one of many hospital admissions some years later after moving to Bundaberg, when Eric was told of his local support group.
“I knew nothing whatsoever about lung disease apart from the fact my father had died from it and I was determined that wasn’t going to happen to me. I needed to find out everything I could from people who had experienced it or supported someone who had experienced it,” Eric said.
He didn’t know at the time but joining the Bundaberg and District Lung Support Group would give Eric much more than just knowledge.
In nearly a decade since joining he has watched the group grow to 38 members and for five of those years Eric has served as Treasurer, with his wife Bernadette by his side as Vice-Chair.
For someone who describes himself as a private sort of a fellow, the power of peer support speaks volumes.
“The friendships I’ve made over the years are very important and there are so many wonderful stories.
“Just recently a member was finding it all a bit hard to handle – he
was recommended oxygen but didn’t know how to start so I talked him through my experience and offered some guidance. Through that simple exchange of knowledge grew a great friendship, even though we’d probably only met a dozen times.
“Hopefully, I helped someone to better understand their condition and to live well.”
Like Eric’s recent experience, there is evidence peer support – sharing
knowledge and lived experience – may be particularly beneficial when people are facing challenging developments or complications in their disease.
“Connecting with people who understand what you’re going through
is an integral part of your journey with lung disease. It can be immensely therapeutic to talk with others who are experiencing the same thing – patients and carers alike,” Lung Foundation Australia General Manager – Consumer Programs, Kirsten Phillips said.
“A chronic lung condition diagnosis can make you feel a range of
emotions, which can affect your overall wellbeing. There is evidence that peer support can help people feel more knowledgeable, confident and happy and less isolated and alone.
“It’s always important to speak with your health care team and your loved ones about your physical and mental wellbeing, and peer support is recognised as being just as important. People with common life experiences have a unique ability to help each other because they share a deep understanding that might not exist in other relationships.
“It cannot be taught or learned, it has to be lived.”
For Eric, it’s all about your approach to life and who you choose to spend it with.
“I believe your attitude is the most positive thing you can bring to a lung disease – this is a disease you can’t cure, but you can learn to live with it.
“The whole concept of a support group is that they might not be able to support you physically, but they can be there to support you mentally.
“All days are good, but some are better than others.”
There is a network of support groups throughout Australia providing people in similar situations the opportunity to come together to support each other, share practical tips and help break down the sense of isolation that can often be experienced.
To find a support group near you, contact our team on 1800 654 301.