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I wish I'd acted sooner when I got a persistent cough

When Andy got a persistent cough, he explained away the symptoms. He wishes he'd seen the signs and gone to the doctor earlier.

Andy Jackson on the beach

I first thought that something might not be right with my lungs in 2012 after developing a persistent dry cough that never went away. I also picked up repeated chest infections and started to feel much more tired especially after exercise. Occasionally, I’d find myself breathless in situations where I’d never felt breathless before, like climbing escalators.

I explained away the symptoms

I didn’t act on my suspicions straight away. Looking back, I think this was for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it was too easy to explain away the signs and symptoms. My chest had always been a weak point prone to picking up infections ever since I was a little boy. I put the tiredness down to burning the candle at both ends while the breathlessness was only noticeable when I had a heavy cold.

The other reason I put off going to get myself checked out was because deep down I think I was also a little worried about what they might find.

I finally went to my GP

So I left it another year. During that time, the breathlessness increased. The cough had also become more noticeable to the point where I could no longer remember the last time that I hadn’t had it. Reluctantly, I finally went to my GP. Even then it was only to please my wife, who had grown concerned.

The GP listened to my chest but didn’t ask me any questions about my breathlessness. To be fair, I don’t think that I mentioned the breathlessness when speaking to him as I hadn’t made any kind of link. I was more concerned about the chest infections and the fact that my running times were dropping.

The GP prescribed some antibiotics and suggested that I try an inhaler, suspecting asthma. His diagnosis didn’t really sit right with me as I had asthma as a child and this didn’t feel the same at all. I went away and pushed it all aside again. I never picked up the inhaler that he prescribed.

The scan revealed scarring in my lungs

Diagnosis came a few months later when I underwent a CT scan as part of a full body medical check as part of a new clinic that my hospital had brought in for patients like me who had undergone bone marrow transplants. The CT scan revealed extensive scarring in my lungs – especially my upper right lung. I underwent a series of lung function tests where it became apparent that my lung capacity was much lower than expected.

I was diagnosed with a rare type of lung disease called pleuroparenchymal fibroelastosis (PPFE) and told that my lung capacity had been reduced by almost 40%. There currently is no cure and the disease will only progress over time.

I didn't take getting breathless seriously

I’ve come to terms now with the fact that my condition will get worse over time. However, I will always regret not taking heed of the signs and symptoms earlier. Had I done so then they would have been able to have started treating the condition earlier and the scarring wouldn’t have progressed so quickly.

In short, I didn’t take getting breathless – albeit not that frequently – seriously and didn’t make the connection that the breathlessness, cough and chest infection were all part of an underlying disease.

Give the breath test a go

If I had my time over, I would have acted sooner which is why I’d recommend everyone give the BLF online breath test a go. The test only takes a couple of minutes to complete and could provide you or a loved one with the information that you need to empower you to go to your GP and get properly checked out.

Do you have a story to tell? It could be about your lung condition, a friend or relative you know who lives with one, or how caring for them impacts your life. We'd love to hear what you've got to say!

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20 June 2019