When Lise was a very young girl, she drove from England to Scotland with her parents. Both of them smoked up a storm the entire time. It wasn’t long after that trip that Lise started smoking herself.
When she was in her late thirties, Lise’s doctor advised her to quit smoking, cautioning her that if she kept smoking, she would end up on a breathing machine by the time she was fifty. Hearing this news, Lise went directly into denial and stayed there for many years – after all, everyone smoked, everywhere, all the time.
In her early forties, Lise’s doctor diagnosed her with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
By her late forties, Lise’s breathing had become much more difficult. The day following her 49th birthday, Lise planned a five-week break from work to quit smoking. It was one of the hardest things she had ever done. And she did it successfully – in just nine days she went cold turkey, even giving up the anti-smoking patch.
Lise joined an online quit smoking support group, and made a quit plan: "It was a mindset: I said to myself that I was ready to stop smoking." She almost immediately felt an improvement to her breathing. But despite quitting smoking, Lise still struggled with breathing.
In her early fifties she was hospitalized for five days, working diligently with medical professionals to get her breathing under control. Lung Specialist Dr. Mark Fitzgerald referred her to the Vancouver Coastal Health's Pulmonary Breathe Well, Live Well Rehabilitation Program at the Trout Lake Community Centre to help her improve her health.
One of the most profound things Lise learned was that it was up to her to take care of her own health. She could not rely on anyone else to fix her. It was not long after that she started a binder and called it My Health Matters.
She also began reading books about getting healthy – one book that was particularly inspiring was Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. She started looking for activities she could do even though she would get scared if she started breathing heavily or gasped for air.
Now in her late fifties, Lise learned last April about the BC Lung Screen Trial. She enrolled and, thankfully, initial tests discovered she did not have lung cancer. However, they found a severe blockage in one of her arteries. Results of a procedure at BC’s Vancouver General Hospital helped to downgrade the blockage from severe to mild, eliminating the need for a stent operation. Going forward, Lise works closely with her doctor, who referred her to one of the Live Well Exercise Clinics found across BC’s lower mainland.
These clinics offer safe, supervised fitness programs for people with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health conditions. Lise looks forward to her weekly sessions and attends every Tuesday and Thursday after work. She loves that the staff check her vital signs before she begins exercising, and that they design routines to be interesting as well as challenging.
In just six months, Lise has reduced her cholesterol medication by 50%, her blood pressure medication by 75% and has lost 10% of her overall weight. She is set to retire in a year and a half, and she plans to cross that finish line with well-managed lung and heart conditions to be in the best health of her life!
Lise is forever grateful to all the lung professionals she has worked with throughout her journey. She belongs to a couple of support groups and shares her knowledge and positive, inspiring attitude with others who have lung conditions.
“Attitude… is everything,” she says. “10% of life is what happens to us and 90% is how we handle it.”
The BC Lung Association looks forward to following Lise’s continued success into her golden years.
Lise Fillion, left, with Hannah Tonneman of the LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic, Vancouver.