Learning to live with COPD

Gina Walton (right) with Ken Fisher

Gina Walton was diagnosed with COPD, a progressive, chronic lung disease about 10 years ago. She has been a member of the Langley Better Breathers Group for the past five. We sat down with Gina to learn a bit more:

When did you first get diagnosed with COPD?
After I had a hip operation in 2007.  I always knew that my breathing wasn’t the best, but after my operation my breathing got so bad I was put on inhalers. That was a bit of a wake-up call that something more serious was going on.  

Has COPD changed your life?

Yes. I get anxious a lot more than I used to. And I tend to avoid new places as I spend a lot of time worrying about something happening or my breathing bothering me. I would like to do some traveling, but it makes me tired which causes my breathing to worsen, which then causes me stress.

How did you find out the support group?

My doctor passed my name on to Connie Goeres who works in respiratory services at Langley Hospital. She runs courses for people with COPD, and after participating in the course she recommended me to the Langley Better Breathers support group.

Why join?

I worked on construction sites my whole life, so I was always surrounded by people. I’m a people person.  So I knew if I was going to exercise, I was going to need to do it in a group with others! I talked to others in the COPD course at Langley Hospital and we joined the Better Breathers support group together to motivate us to exercise.

As a group, we exercise year round and only stay away if we feel like we may be coming down with something. At the hospital when I was first diagnosed, I could hardly do more than a few minutes of exercise. Now, after five years, I can do 20 minutes on the treadmill and 20 minutes on the elliptical! Doing the exercises really makes me feel alive. I’ve noticed our group don't get sick as much as they used to, and I attribute that to all the exercise we’re doing!

Got any advice?

Take one day at a time and don't be afraid to tell people about your COPD. 

And I would also encourage everyone to give exercise a chance. You’ll be amazed how quickly you can improve. Start slowly but stick with it. I also find it helps to get the phlegm up and keep airways clearer.

One more tip. I take a small fan with me wherever I go to help with my breathing. It’s probably just a crutch but hey, whatever works!

Finally, I just want to add that being a part of the Better Breathers support group is the best thing I ever did for my COPD. I always have someone to talk to or ask questions. We’re all going through a similar experience and so together we find way to keep laughing and having fun. Young people have even come up to us and said they would never know we have breathing problems based on the fun we seem to be having!

The Langley Better Breathers Group meets on the second Wednesday of every month in the Timms Building in Langley. They also have two exercise groups that meet up three times every week. For more information about joining the Langley Better Breathers group, or finding a Better Breathers group in your community, contact Kelly at 604-731-5864 or ablog@bc.lung.ca.

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Page Last Updated: 04/04/2017