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Since starting our support group it’s gone from strength to strength

Ann and her husband started a BLF support group after feeling disappointed when pulmonary rehab classes ended. In this blog, Ann shares how the group came to be and how it helped her through a difficult time.

My husband and I started Breathe Easy Andover. My husband had stage 4 emphysema and had given up work some years before.  He couldn’t take part in the sports, golf and fishing that he loved and was often lonely, isolated and depressed. We couldn’t socialise or go on holiday with our friends anymore because of his condition.

When the courses finished, he was always quite sad because he wouldn’t see the group again.

During this time he went to many pulmonary rehabilitation courses and greatly valued the social aspect. He made new friends who he would often meet outside the course for coffee and a chat. When the courses finished, he was always quite sad because he wouldn’t see the group again, something the rest of the group felt as well. At the last course he went to, one of the nurses asked if he’d thought of starting a Breathe Easy group.

Setting up a BLF support group (and exercise class!)

We’d never heard of Breathe Easy, but after doing some research decided to give it a go. My husband asked me to help and within weeks Breathe Easy Andover was born. We had 10 members at the start, we now have over 50!

We had 10 members at the start, we now have over 50!

After a few months, members were asking if we could have our own exercise group. The PR classes had shown us all how important exercise is to help manage a lung condition, but many found going to the local gym intimidating. When left to their own devices, they struggled to keep up with the exercise routine. Our new group couldn’t afford professional instruction, so I was handed a stopwatch and became the group instructor! Before I retired my work was in nursing and care, and I’d always kept fit and taken an interest in exercise. I’d also been to the PR courses with my husband, so I knew the exercises well. 

The weekly exercise club became more popular than the monthly meetings. We have an extraordinary bunch of lovely people with lots of jaw exercise (chatting) and diaphragm exercise (laughter!).

The group gave support to me at a difficult time

Breathe Easy Andover

Sadly, my husband passed away. I had to ask myself if I wanted to carry on with the group or if I’d had enough of COPD to last me a lifetime. The group members, the hospital and respiratory team - my ‘family’ - made up my mind for me. They gave me so much care, support and friendship at a very difficult time.

We work closely with the hospital teams and have speakers at every monthly meeting. Last year we became an affiliated group, but we still have the support of British Lung Foundation.

I now have a secretary (who’s an excellent cake baker), a treasurer, an IT expert and a full committee. They help me organise Christmas lunch, raffles, summer outings and coffee mornings and we were hoping to organise a Christmas break at a hotel for the festive celebrations.

Since the coronavirus outbreak we’ve been keeping in touch through email, phone, Facebook, and WhatsApp. All plans are on the back burner for a while, with all our planned speakers on hold for the time being. We’re organising socially distanced country walks for people who can, and a competition for the best decorated garden shed has been suggested! We’re all looking forward to being able to be back together soon.

At the start of the pandemic. we advised our support groups not to meet face to face.

But like Ann's group, many found ways to stay in touch during this time

BLF support group has gone digital!

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30 July 2020