“Exercise and weight loss improved my quality of life.”
My name is Meredith Lores, I’m 60 years of age and I was diagnosed with mild Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in 2015.
As a teenager I suffered from bronchitis and asthma and I suspected I had lung issues as my breathing was very slowly deteriorating, however I, like many people with a lung condition initially put it down to getting older, so I didn’t get checked out early enough. I had smoked since my early 20s and successfully gave up in November 2014. As I had previously smoked, my initial thoughts were that I had brought it on myself, so what can be done? I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Dealing with the stigma of having a lung disease can be quite hard as a lot of people my age smoked.
“It’s when people automatically make the assumption you were a smoker.”
It’s difficult when the first thing they say is, “You must have been a smoker” or “Is that from you smoking?” We don’t blame or judge people who are diagnosed with other cancers or chronic health conditions that can be caused by lifestyle choices.
“It shouldn’t be any different for someone with a lung condition.”
In June 2014, I got the flu, and continued to get chest infections over the next few months. In February 2015, my General Practitioner (GP) referred me to a Thoracic Physician who performed a spirometry test and diagnosed me with COPD. Without much of an explanation of what COPD was, I left his office with a new inhaler and an appointment in six months. It was a relief to know there was a reason for the chest infections and shortness of breath and that there was treatment available, even if it wasn’t a cure.
Weight was also an issue for me and I was told if I lost weight it might help with my breathing. In September 2015, I changed to a new GP, who said when I was serious about losing weight to talk to her, and she would help me – this is exactly what I needed to hear. It took me four months to go and see her by which time I knew I had to do something to improve, not only for my general health but for my breathing.
My journey had begun.
I worked with my GP and practice nurse, my major support person, to develop a care management plan, saw a dieticianand an exercise physiologist. I started walking every day and was so mindful about what I ate and I started to lose weight. I completed pulmonary rehabilitation and I loved the whole environment of it, the exercise was tailored to each individual in a safe environment. My quality of life score improved significantly and it taught me how to breathe properly particularly when exercising, and I found the education informative and helped in so many ways.
I now attend Lungs in Action exercise maintenance twice a week and walk regularly. Both make a massive difference to my breathing and quality of life. With the support of my health professionals, these activities have given me the tools to manage my COPD better.
In April 2017, I was admitted to hospital for the first time, I wasn’t in control of my breathing and it was terrifying – the unknown scared the life out of me. I was admitted again in August. The fact is you don’t know if this is a sign of the beginning of the next stage of COPD and I find this really hard to deal with.
I started to experience anxiety and depression, I couldn’t control the tears, and I wasn’t sleeping or eating properly. I start to gain weight and this made me more depressed. After seeking help, I’m feeling much better and able to re-focus. My practice nurse has been amazing, and the support and knowledge she has given me over the past 17 months has been invaluable. I could ask her anything, and if she didn’t know the answer she would find out for me.
Unless you have a lung condition, you can sympathise but I believe you can’t truly understand what it’s like not to be able to breathe properly.
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.