How Melanie is loving her lungs
As it’s Love Your Lungs Week, we’re sharing stories of people who have been loving their lungs over the past year, and how they will continue to do so. Melanie is 53 and proud mum to two boys, aged 24 and 22. She works for a rare disease charity, and tells us how she has been loving her lungs through the pandemic.
Could you tell us a little about your lung condition?
I have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). My symptoms began back in 2013, when I had a slightly annoying cough that came and went for weeks at a time. Life and other health issues resulted in me ignoring my symptoms until 2017. The cough was becoming more persistent, with family and friends commenting that I was breathless if I called them while out walking.
I had tests at the Royal Brompton and then at my local hospital and was diagnosed with COPD in 2018. At that point, I was coughing much more (to the embarrassment of my family when we were out and about), I was more breathless when moving and noticed I got tired more easily.
Thanks to the patience of the respiratory nurse who worked hard at getting my medication right, and access to pulmonary rehabilitation, COPD hasn't impacted too significantly on my daily life so far. The thing I find most upsetting is that I cough and get breathless pretty much every time I laugh and, like everybody, I love to laugh.
Eating can often trigger my symptoms. And sometimes I have to give up on phone calls when I'm out walking, especially if there are any upward climbs involved. My running days are definitely over and I've had to learn to pace myself more than I used to because of the tiredness. But, I can still do most of the things I have always enjoyed.
How has the pandemic changed your day-to-day life?
I've worked from home for four days a week since 2008, so I was lucky when lockdown came into force that this wasn't new for me. I did, however, really miss my one day a week travelling to London to work with my friend and colleague, Anne. This always used to be the highlight of my working week. What I wasn't used to, however, was having my husband working from home too - that took a bit of getting used to for us both!
I was on the shielding list and the hardest thing for me, as I'm sure it was for most people, was not seeing my family and friends, and not hugging. I love being with people and found the isolation really challenging. But, needs must, and I would do anything to avoid having COVID-19. I've always been a prolific walker and I really missed both the physical and mental benefits that I had always enjoyed as a result of my daily strolls.
I became a great fan of Zoom and Messenger video calls which, on many occasions, helped keep me sane. I also discovered a newfound passion for gardening and singing. My garden looks better than it has for years and has kept me active, and I have been singing for at least an hour every evening. My playlist goes on without fail and, even though I can't claim to be tuneful, I love singing and really think it has helped my chest.
Have you noticed any changes to your lung condition during lockdown? And what have you changed to look after yourself more?
My COPD was actually much better during lockdown. Whether that was a result of not being near busy roads, not travelling into London, not walking up hills, or simply not being exposed to coughs and colds that can easily result in a flare up, but I had no call for antibiotics or steroids.
Since lockdown has eased, I'm already noticing I'm needing to take my reliever inhaler more. I'm also much more symptomatic now that I've been out and about a few times. This has been really disappointing - I'd almost convinced myself that I had a new 'normal'.
I’ve had more 'me time' to enjoy reading, singing, to do a bit of arts and crafts, to play word puzzles and to potter in the garden. I also completed a short course about mental health and wellbeing - the first time I'd studied in over 30 years. This all definitely helped my mental health, as have my wonderful friends and family, who were always there to lift my mood on tougher days, and I'm pretty sure that it has helped my physical health too.
How will you continue to love your lungs as places start to open up? Will you change anything?
I will do what I can to continue to make as much time for me, and to enjoy the things that have helped so much during the pandemic. I will definitely continue to be wary of people getting close to me - I'm on red alert when I'm out and anybody gets anywhere near me. I also won't be stopping with the current level of hand washing and wearing a mask for some time yet. I have already had a few trips to the shops - I really don't like shopping for clothes online, so that was my first shopping trip. It was exciting and overwhelming in equal measure!
In terms of showing my lungs some love, I plan to find a singing group for people who just want to belt out a tune, but don't want a serious choir set-up. I like the idea of the social side as much as the joy of singing, and I am really looking forward to getting back to more regular walks. I’m also looking forward to having my sons and their partners round for dinner - that can't come soon enough!
Join us for Love your lungs week this June, to raise awareness of lung health.
From 21 - 27 June, we're looking back over the past year and celebrating how we have loved our lungs and how we will continue to do so.
Living with a lung condition can be hard. Over the past year, the pandemic has taught us just how important it is to love our lungs.
Let’s look after our lungs together this Love Your Lungs Week.