World COPD Day: Taking on the trail
Andy has COPD but he won’t let that stop him from going the distance.
I spent my life as a heavy smoker – and I paid the price for it when I was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2011.
It’s easy to get down about a condition like this, especially as it makes you more and more short of breath and the things you love to do in life get more difficult. But I decided to keep positive and take some active steps towards staying healthy.
I finally managed to quit smoking, and I started exercising to help manage my COPD and stop it from quickly progressing. I soon caught the bug and became really dedicated to exercising. The difference it made to my quality of life surprised me and motivated me to carry on.
After 12 months of working hard and increasing my fitness, I decided to make the most of it by doing a sponsored walk for the British Lung Foundation. As a Worcester local, of course it made sense for me to take on the Worcestershire Way.
The Long Distance Walkers Association describes this 31 mile walk across farmland and hills as 'challenging' but I wouldn’t let that stop me! In fact, I decided to up the stakes even more – by setting myself the task of taking it on in just one day.
It certainly wasn’t easy to prepare for the walk. I found myself training every night and at weekends to make sure I would be able to complete the full distance. I always expected to reach the point where I just couldn’t go on any more, but it didn’t happen. It was tough, but the challenge was definitely achievable, even with my COPD.
By the time the big day arrived, I was well prepared for the challenge fitness-wise. But while I'm proud to say that my physical health has come a long way since I started training, I couldn't have done it without emotional support too.
My partner Mandy and my daughters Sasha and Gemma kept me going when the end seemed far away. It was a brilliant moment to finally cross the finish line and see them there cheering for me.
I’m so glad I took a positive direction after my diagnosis of COPD and I couldn’t be happier with how far I’ve come. My self-esteem and fitness are now the highest they’ve ever been. Not only did I gain a real sense of achievement by completing my challenge, but I also raised awareness of the BLF and collected £830 of sponsorship money that will help their work go further.
Of course, I haven’t stopped walking yet! I’m now planning my next adventure, a three-day trek along 84 miles of Hadrian’s Wall. I’ll be raising money again and hope to give even more to support the BLF. I also hope to inspire other people living with lung conditions to take on their own challenges, no matter how big or small.