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My mum has COPD and she is the family’s wonder woman!

Since her COPD diagnosis Holly’s mum Rita has been an inspiration to her family, with her upbeat attitude and her determination to push herself to stay as active as possible. Rita’s COPD diagnosis came in 2007 after she was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties. Here, Holly shares her mum’s story.

I was away at university when my dad called me to tell me that he’d come home to find mum bent over and struggling to breathe and that she had been rushed into hospital. Our family is really close-knit and we immediately all ran to be by mum’s side. The COPD diagnosis came as a real shock to us and during the first few months mum struggled to come to terms with it. 

A change of lifestyle 

She had led a really active lifestyle, scuba diving with my dad in all these wonderful locations and when she was told she was no longer able to do it anymore she was very upset about it. Something she loved was being taken away and it all felt really unfair. We also didn't get much information from the doctors about what exercise she was allowed to do which was hard. So, we started researching ourselves and looking for ways in which mum could still be active with her COPD. We found groups online that were going through the same thing and we read as much as we could. We also found the British Lung Foundation’s website with advice on getting active with a lung condition really helpful. 

Adjusting to excersing 

At the beginning we were scared of trying anything for fear of it being too strenuous. Mum was also terrified to start exercising at first. She would start out walking and would work herself up into a state of panic, genuinely thinking she was going to die. We kept reminding her that it is always OK to stop, walk, breathe, take your inhaler and calm your mind.

Mum continued to struggle with exercise until a chance encounter with a respiratory nurse on holiday. The nurse mum met said how excellently mum was doing when watching her power walk up hills. This gave her a huge confidence boost. Now rather than saying she can't do something, she will always give it a try! Mum now walks miles every day with my dad and their Staffordshire bull terrier, Spencer. She has also taken part in sponsored walks and even recently completed her first parkrun. It helps that she is really competitive which motivates her to keep trying. The first time we went for a run she wanted to overtake people and kept saying ‘Come on Holly we can catch that one….’ It was hilarious!

Our inspiration

Mum does still struggle at times especially when she has to go in for lung function tests and for a day or two it really knocks her back but we are there to build her back up. She is such an inspiration to the whole family. She could have chosen to give up and accept her reduced lung capacity and allow herself to wallow and not try things, but she doesn't! She never does! She walks, she runs, she bike rides! She really is the family’s wonder woman!


Are you eager to be more active, but are unsure what level of exercise is right for you?

Many people with lung conditions avoid exercise, as they are worried about becoming breathless. But regular bursts of exercise however small could actually improve your symptoms and overall lung health.

Find out more

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21 September 2021