I am 66 years old and was a self employed painter and decorator up until last year when I happily retired. I was officially diagnosed with COPD back in 2003, I say officially because I dare say I had it for a while before then. My sister had COPD and as time went on I was watching her and seeing her symptoms and I suspected that I had it too. Eventually I went to my GP and after a few hospital scans and tests I was diagnosed with COPD. I had been hoping against hope it wasn’t, because my sister was so unwell and breathless, but at the same time I knew it likely was. I had been a smoker but had actually given up a couple of years before I was diagnosed but I suppose the damage had been done.
I managed pretty ok for the last number of years. I sometimes wonder how I was able to carry on with my job as a painter but then again maybe the physical activity was good for me too. I got my medication through my GP and apart from the odd visit as an outpatient to the hospital for a check–up that was me.
But more recently it’s definitely been harder to bounce back from things like chest infections and I have had to realise that I can’t do all the things that I used to be able to do or even some of the things I still expect I should be able to do.
I was standing in my local chemist shop one day and I saw a poster for NI Chest Heart & Stroke’s Respiratory Services; I thought to myself that I needed to meet other people like me.
So I rang the number and actually arranged to go on the 6 week Taking Control Programme. It was great to mix with other peopleto hear their stories and to learn from them. I really valued the goals, or action plans, that we set each week. The fact that you tell each other what you have planned to do and then came back the next week to tell everyone how you got on was very motivating. They definitely pricked my conscience to do the walking I had set myself to do because at the end of the day I realised that in many ways the only person who can affect some of the changes needed is myself. We practiced breathing techniques on the Programme and I have found them to be really important in helping me to be able to control my breathing especially when I start to feel breathless because breathlessness is a panicky feeling.
After the Taking Control Programme I continue to meet with a monthly NI Chest Heart & Stroke Support Group. Again meeting other people is a real benefit as are the speakers that come to the group and the activities that we do. We have great camaraderie and craic.
Because of the NICHS Co–ordinator I am actually now going on a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Course.
Find out more about the respiratory services that Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke offer.