John’s story


My name is John Ruttle, I am 72 years old, father to three sons and grandfather to six grandchildren.

When I was a teenager, I played a lot of sports, went on bush walks and was never still.  When you get married and have children all your spare times disappears and your fitness starts to weaken.  I never saw a doctor, unless I needed a certificate for work or I had a cold and in that case I just went to a medical centre.

Around 2002, I started to develop a cough which seemed to happen each time I was exerting myself. As I relaxed the cough would stop.  I noticed that when I coughed walking along the street for example, I could feel it was harder to breathe. Over time, I found I couldn’t walk 100 metres without becoming breathless. I was always very hot and had trouble wearing a tie, it was as if I was choking. I blamed the cough and breathlessness on my job as I was a senior auditor in fraud, travelled throughout Australia and worked long hours with stress.  Eventually, around 2004 my wife insisted I go to a doctor and that is when I was referred to a lung specialist. They ran various tests that resulted in me being diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and given 18 months to live.

I was still working when I was diagnosed and colleagues started avoiding me in case they caught it. I didn’t like it but could not blame them either. My cough was virtually nonstop.

When I was first diagnosed I didn’t know what COPD was. None of it made sense to me, so my wife started researching. At the time we did not know about Lung Foundation Australia. On the next visit to the specialist we came upon a pamphlet explaining the disease.

It took me by surprise; I didn’t think people could become sick this way.

I completed a pulmonary rehabilitation program at my local hospital which taught me exercises, how to live with my condition and what lifestyle changes I needed to make.

I made a conscious decision to give up smoking and keep active.  I am now the president of the Nepean Puffers and Wheezers Lung Support Group, I attend a Lungs In Action exercise class every month and I keep busy tending to my orchids and bonsais. I also love spending time with my children and grandchildren. I contribute to the community by being on committees for various organisations including the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District and Lung Foundation Australia.

I have lived in the same home for the past 46 years.  My last job was as a senior auditor for the fraud squad of the Australian Taxation Office from which I had to retire 13 years ago because of my health.

I attribute my survival to a good mental attitude and a healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise. But I think I really need to thank my wife whom, without her persistence, time and effort, I would probably not be here today.

Despite my COPD and other medical problems, I consider myself lucky because other people are worse off than me.  My motto is ‘keep living each day as it comes’.

Sharing your personal experience with lung disease is a compelling and inspiring way for others to learn about and cope with their diagnosis. Your story may also encourage people to identify and act on symptoms they are experiencing, which may otherwise have been ignored.

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