In 2009, Sue Grant underwent a triple-by-pass heart surgery. During her recovery, she experienced a lingering cold. After some tests and time had passed, she was finally diagnosed with COPD. Sue recently sat down with Darcy Murdoch, a double lung transplant survivor and BC Lung Association patient advocate to talk about her COPD, how she manages it, and her advice for others with the same problems.
When did you first learn you had COPD?
In 2009, I went to renew my driver’s license. Since I have diabetes and high blood pressure, I was required to have my doctor sign off on a medical questionnaire. During this doctor visit, some blockages in my heart were found and I ended up having a triple-by-pass surgery. I’m happy to say that now all my follow-up tests are positive!
It was while I was recovering from my heart surgery that I noticed I had a lingering cold. My doctor sent me for some breathing tests, and while my respirologist did not diagnose me with COPD immediately, it was recommended that I start using puffers to help manage my breathing. Soon after, I was officially diagnosed with COPD and started using both Advair and Ventolin.
How does COPD affect your daily life?
Both the indoor and outdoor air quality affect me. I’m sensitive to strong perfume and cologne, scented candles, cleaning products, and wood smoke. I used to smoke, but I quit 35 years ago. Now the smell of cigarette smoke nauseates me. I also need to stay indoors when the air is foggy or smoky. I notice that my voice gets scratchy and beings to fade out when I’ve been talking, and I have difficulty raising my voice to be heard.
You’re using Advair and Ventolin - what about oxygen therapy?
I’m currently not using any oxygen therapy. I’m working really hard to avoid this as much as possible - I’m in the process of hiring a personal trainer to help with my exercise as I’ve found that to be the best help!
What does your exercise regime consist of?
I go to the gym five days a week. I start by going on a treadmill, then do a circuit training program called ‘She’s Fit’. I also try to incorporate exercise into my daily life - I like to garden and typically climb my home stairs 8-10 times a day.
What’s your support system like?
I have a great support system! It consists of my loving husband of 48 years, along with my sister and great friends and neighbours who are always there for me. They’re all a huge help.
Is there anything other people can do to help those with COPD?
We need more education on scent-free areas. I would love it if more people wore less perfume, and if there were stricter measures in place for smoke-free places. I also think we need more pulmonary rehab programs in more communities.
Any advice you would give to others living with COPD?
Keep moving! It might be hard at the beginning but try to find a form of exercise you enjoy and enlist a workout buddy to come with you. Also, join a support group like Better Breather’s. It’s great for fellowship, meeting new friends, and staying informed and educated about COPD. Lastly, it’s important to always be prepared. I make sure to always carry my puffers with me, try to get plenty of sleep, and take my medications when I need to.
Sue Grant lives with her husband Doug in Abbotsford, BC. She was a commercial insurance broker for most of her working career, and now enjoys travelling, relaxing on a beach, home decorating, flower arranging, and making preserves.