My name is Ingrid Lippett, I’m a mother and school teacher diagnosed with bronchiectasis in 2006 at age 65.
I was out and about with my teenage children one day when I began coughing violently. Luckily we had just arrived home when the coughing turned from mucus to blood. It wasn’t a small amount, it just kept coming but I thought it was a side effect of the bronchitis I had just got over. But to no avail I kept on coughing up blood on and off for another day until I saw my general practitioner (GP). He thought the bronchitis has damaged my throat lining.
I continued to have trouble with coughing up blood so I changed doctors. This doctor was concerned and he sent me off for an x-ray and a bronchoscopy, but neither showed us anything. Finally, an open lung biopsy and CT scan showed that I had a few white spots on one lung.
My first specialist was very matter of fact and didn’t offer me the support and information I needed. He didn’t seem to know what would help so I changed specialists. My current specialist knows a great deal about my condition but is not very enthusiastic about my endeavours to vend off an oxygen tank. Early on with my diagnosis I found visits to the chiropractor greatly beneficial as it loosened up my ribs so my lungs don’t feel imprisoned by them. I continue to see my chiro once a month.
I’m not sure what caused my bronchiectasis, however when I was first diagnosed I thought it may have been due to living in an apple growing area where they used nasty chemicals to treat the fruit.
When I was diagnosed, my family were very supportive although they were bewildered because ‘I looked okay’.
After taking a term off from my job as a school teacher, I began teaching physical education again which I thought would be good to ‘push the boundary’. I feel good most of the time and I attribute that to my positive attitude and gusto.
Despite my family being supportive, I often have had to ask them to slow down or stop while we are walking because I get very breathless walking quickly or up a hill. I feel embarrassed and I think my family do too.
I seem to be telling people on a regular basis about my condition to justify why I only teach two days, have a disability car card or can’t do a range of activities, drink alcohol and have a fat face and body.
I get a bit paranoid about the sun damaging my skin which is a side effect of the tablets so I always pester my family about utilising the shade wherever we go. I also find myself feeling guilty for being sick as all of my family have had cancer, including my husband who was recently diagnosed, and ‘mothers are supposed to be supportive and reliable.’
I have completed two rehabilitation exercise programs but was told that I couldn’t continue as two courses were enough support for someone in my condition. I then began attending an exercise program for the elderly but was told I couldn’t continue because I was too young.
I live on a property that has a steep driveway which I use as a great indicator to how my condition is going. If I am breathless when walking up, I know I need to take it easier. I feel very excited when I can walk up the driveway without any ill effects.
My specialist is very amazed that, despite living with my condition for 12 years, I have avoided the oxygen tank he said I would have to start using five years ago. My lung function tests show that they are stable, allowing me to still work two days a week as a science teacher and do a range of activities like babysitting my grandchildren, tai chi and singing in a choir.
I do get breathless but I often stop and remind myself that I am sick.
Something that has really helped my breathing is a BreatheAbility course. This course focuses on breathing through your nose instead of through your mouth.
I like to challenge myself and my lungs so in 2018 I plan to learn how to play the harmonica and flute. I am often surprised by the reaction of people when they find out I am sick.
It’s not going to get me without a fight.