After bronchiectasis, I was depressed - then I found Breathe Easy
Glenys went into a depression after developing bronchiectasis. But after discovering her local Breathe Easy group, she's building a new life in the slow lane.
I was leading an active, healthy life, spending hours tending to my allotment, hiking mountains, exploring castles and visiting my daughter in Wales.
I'd also finally found a job I really liked - and was good at! - working as a learning support assistant looking after special needs children. I loved it.
Then one day, I started to get terrible pains in my joints. I went to my doctor, who gave me steroids. Almost straight away, I got a terrible chest infection. It got so bad that I collapsed while having lunch.
I went on antibiotics, but didn't improve. The doctors told me there was nothing else they could do. They were so abrupt.
I was getting so fed up.
Finally, I found a different doctor, and after some x-rays and CT scans, I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis, and later on bronchiolitis obliterans. My chest hurt so much, but that was only the physical part of it.
Mentally, I suffered far more.
Normal life went on hold
I became too ill to do my job. There was a lot of running in the playground that I just couldn’t keep up with. I realised that if there was an emergency, I’d have found it hard enough to look after myself, let alone the children.
My job had gone. My life was on hold. The things I liked doing were over.
Suddenly I found myself feeling jealous of other people going on walks, or heading to work. I would think: that’s not fair! I never smoked, I ate well and had walked absolutely everywhere. After all, I had two legs, didn’t I? Well, I still had two legs, but I didn't feel like I had two lungs anymore.
I couldn't walk from kitchen to living room to make a cup of tea without getting out of breath. Exploring castle battlements became a memory.
I got depressed. My job had gone. My life was on hold. The things I liked doing were over. I was in a terrible state.
A chance encounter
Then, one day, I was at the hospital for some tests. I got out of breath while walking, so I stopped at a little information area on the way.
Someone else sitting there could tell that I was breathless, so they handed me a leaflet, which was tucked away under other brochures.
That was when I first found out about Breathe Easy. I joined straight away.
My first Breathe Easy meeting
From my first Breathe Easy meeting, I could tell how supportive and understanding a place it was. Normally if you walk into a place out of breath, people make such a fuss - or try to call you an ambulance! Not here. Instead, they just pulled me up a chair.
I was made to feel so welcome. Everyone was so helpful.
At Breathe Easy, I realised I was among friends.
At my second meeting, I was sitting in the back coughing. The man next to me left to get a glass of water. Then I realised he'd fetched it for me! I realised I was among friends. It was lovely.
We have some amazing speakers, which our wonderful chair Margaret organises. We all swap advice about which doctor to see, or share tips, like drinking diluted pineapple juice for a dry mouth.
And it’s not just talking about health either - sometimes we have other guests, like a duo who perform poetry and play the guitar.
It’s such a supportive place, and it’s helped me so much.
A new way to live
Gradually, I’ve found new ways to live. It can take a long time, but you get over it.
Gradually, I’ve found new ways to live. It can take a long time, but you get over it. You just say to yourself, “Okay, I’m not that person anymore. But this is my new pace, and this is what I can do.”
Now, instead of spending hours digging pits to plant my courgettes, I take my time, plan ahead and get help lifting the compost bins. I remember to book travel assistance at train stations when heading to Wales, and do most of my shopping online.
I’ve had to draw a line on some things, and accept that they’re gone. Doing that has helped me build my new life. Now I’m getting used to living in the slow lane and pacing myself, instead of dashing about.
Breathe Easy helps me feel like I have a life again
If someone's not been through it, then it’s very hard to explain the sudden devastation when you discover that life as you know it has gone. I felt like I was in mourning, a bit like as if I had died.
I’m so glad I found Breathe Easy. It helps me feel I have a life again, especially when I’m stuck indoors so often. It was just pure chance that I stopped at that information point in the hospital.
More people should be told about Breathe Easy. It’s where I learned I wasn’t alone - that other people understand what I’m going through too. We need to get the word out there.