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I can't imagine living alone with a lung condition

After spending a night away from his partner, Dick has a newfound appreciation for the emotional support she provides. 

Dick and Sharon

I have COPD and lung cancer, and live in a third-storey flat with my partner, Sharon. We share the jobs in the home, so she'll go to the supermarket and push the trolley around, I’ll carry it up the stairs, and we'll both share the cooking. I try to lead a normal lifestyle. 

Sharon works full time in a nursing home, and most of the time her shifts finish at 8pm. But recently, she had a one-off night shift, which was out of the ordinary.

I didn't think much of it at the time. I hadn’t expected how hard it would be for me. 

I couldn't drop off

As I went to bed, I realised I wasn’t falling asleep. Instead of dropping off, I spent an hour going over the ‘what ifs' in my head. To not have her there was all new and strange. I began to worry what would happen if I had an exacerbation. 

I spent an hour going over the ‘what ifs‘ in my head.

Mentally, I couldn’t cope with it very well. It kept me awake. 

We live in a block of flats, and if anything happened, I knew I’d be in trouble. How would I get down the stairs? What if there was a fire, how would I get out? The front door would be locked, and it would be night time.

Even if I contacted emergency services, they wouldn’t be able to get in without the police, which would take even more time… and when you can’t breathe, every second counts. 

Living alone with a lung condition is far from easy

I enjoy being independent. I take as many precautions as I can when I'm out and about on my own, with my Tag for Tap medical alert wristband, so I know if I collapse while I’m out, people will know who I am, where I live and who to contact. I always have my mobile phone, too.

There's an emergency SMS that you can register for so if you're really out of breath and need to call the emergency services you can text them instead of speaking to them. 

But that is no substitute for the psychological support of having my partner.

I realise that it’s all about knowing that she’s still around, just in case. It makes me feel better and more secure.

When Sharon isn't around, I get that sense of insecurity. Although she was only gone for one night, it was enough for me to realise that living on your own with a lung condition would be very far from a walk in the park.

I'm grateful to have someone

I really appreciate having someone to talk to, and discuss my lung condition with. It’s hard to talk about my condition because I keep it all inside, and it’s so hard to put into words. And the stress of holding it in can make my breathing worse. 

 Life would be very different if I didn't have Sharon.

I’m so grateful to have Sharon. Life would be very different if I didn't have her. 

Our helpline is here if you need. You can talk to us about anything - from how to manage your condition, to going on holiday. Or even just to say hello.  Just call 03000 030 555 Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm.

Find out more about our helpline


I have both lung cancer and severe COPD.My husband died last year.I live in the first floor of a block of what used to be full sheltered housing but isn't any more.I have to debate whether to lock my front door at night or not as with the secure main entry system,I worry whether anyone could get in my flat if I had a bad flare up.
I nursed my husband through his long illness, but not just nursed him, loved him through it and supported him every step of the way. The last 2 years I was not working, I was totally devoted to him. He would feel afraid but it was a comfort for him knowing I was there. It broke my heart to lose him but I know I gave him the best of me always x

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20 August 2018