I’ve just celebrated my 4th anniversary since being diagnosed with COPD and while you may question why I would celebrate this, to me it’s simple.
Go back 6 years ago to a time where I was training with my mates, life was pretty simple, family,work, training and having fun was my uncomplicated life. Asthma had always been an annoying companion that I thought I had under control. I had overcome a stroke/seizure in 2002, I was feeling pretty bullet proof.
How wrong I was. Little did I know back then that I was being shadowed by a potential killer, one that effects millions of people around the world and slowly sneaks up on you. Sometime towards the end of 2010 the first signs of COPD started to show but given that I had never heard of this disease at this stage I put it down to my asthma becoming worse. I was really struggling to keep up with my training partners, constantly succumbing to chest infection and generally feeling tired and unwell.
As the decline continued I decided I needed to see my Doctor,even though I still thought it was just my asthma getting worse. I was referred to a Respiratory Specialist, Dr Wayne Kelly in Brisbane. It was October 2011 after under going some spirometry testing that Dr Kelly broke the news, your lung function is at 22% you have COPD. I was shocked to say the least, surely it’s just my asthma getting worse ? No it wasn’t and when I look back now the signs had been there for a while, always short of breath, tired, change in skin colour due to low oxygen levels and my reliever puffer wasn’t giving me the relief it once did.
I was put on a heavy dosage of prednisone to see if my airways would open up anymore, they did slightly but my lung function was still under 30%. I was told that COPD was a progressive disease and that I may need a double lung transplant inside 5 years. I was sent to our local transplant unit where the Doctor told me that it was too early for me to be placed on a transplant list. The Doctor told me that to be a good candidate for a transplant it was important for me to stay as fit and healthy as I could.
The problem was to keep fit you need to exercise and I just didn’t have the energy to do any of that. Enter my Wife Leanne and her persistence to have me visit a Chinese Doctor as she had researched and decided this could help. Sceptical me, agreed to go and visit this Chinese Doctor that in my mind was not going to be able to do anything but drain the bank account.
What impressed me at my first visit was the good Doctor telling me while he couldn’t repair my lungs he could give me more energy. This was music to my ears as I knew the more energy I had the more exercise I could do and the better I would feel. I underwent a 10 month course of Chinese medicine and it did give me more energy so I could exercise.
WHY CELEBRATE ?
Today I am travelling to New York to run in the New York marathon and I do mean run. For me it’s a big deal as I never thought I’d be able to run long distances with stage IV COPD. I know there are people out their who are sceptical and I know some people think that my COPD mustn’t be too bad. Well I can assure you that a fev1 <30% is not that great . The truth is that exercise has allowed me to build my strength and endurance which in turn has made my body use oxygen more efficiently. Structurally my airways are still the same and that will never change, but I am, as are many others, proof that being active can give you a better quality of life.
Since my diagnosis I have completed 3 Ironman races and a number of other events. In the last 5 months the training program specifically design for me by my coach Doug Belford has seen an increase in my exercise capacity. Whilst I wouldn’t wish COPD on anyone I am proud of my journey since being diagnosed and that is why I celebrate !