‘Jingle bells, jingle bells’… that song is in the air again, can you believe it?
This year, I’m looking forward to a festive sing-song with a very special group of people. They’ve given new meaning to my life, can I tell you about them?
I’m Ian, I’m 69 and I live in Forfar, Angus. Like many Scots my age, I took up smoking as a teenager. You might remember, back in the swinging 60s, almost everyone did. The biggest film stars of the time made it look glamorous. And throughout my career in the police force, many colleagues smoked to deal with the daily stresses of the job.
But it was all to catch up with me eventually. In the run up to Christmas 2004, I began to feel tightness in my chest and became very breathless. My GP told me I had COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease*) and said the years of smoking had badly affected my lungs. The condition hadn’t really been explained to me before and the diagnosis hit me really hard; I felt depressed and unable to cope. Would I still be around to see my grandchildren grow up?
It was around this time I read in the local paper about a COPD Support Group in the area. After a chat with my local practice nurse, she sent me along to experience a Pulmonary (Lung) Rehabilitation service for myself. My well-being began to improve from this point.
Making spirits bright…
I learned more about my condition and how to cope with it, and the combination of exercise, education and support was fantastic. The Nurse who visited us really took the time to listen to our feelings and explained everything. I became much more in control of my COPD and my life, and on my 60th birthday, gladly gave up smoking once and for all.
I soon realised that it would be better if there was a peer support group closer to home, so with the help of a start up grant from Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, and the support of the local Respiratory Team in Angus, we set one up! Now, our ‘Forfar Airways’ Group meets every week. We’re like a family and support each other through the good times and bad. And it’s so reassuring to know that CHSS is there for us, providing all the practical support we need.
It is a programme delivered by CHSS. A national network of people affected by chest, heart and stroke conditions to help them have their say. The Charity offers free workshops and ongoing support, to provide people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to talk about what matters to them in planning new and improved health and social care services.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a long term chest condition where narrowing of the airways makes it harder to breathe in and out. There is currently no cure, but symptoms and complications can usually be controlled. Joining a peer support group, where everyone can share their experience, can be hugely helpful.
Oh, what fun it is to sing…
I’m proud to say that we now have more than 30 members taking part in exercise sessions, enjoying a friendly blether, a warming cuppa, laughter and a good old sing-song. As well as getting the feel- good factor, the singing actually helps us control our breathing. Right now, we’re all looking forward to our Christmas get together and singing all the festive favourites!
O’er fields we go…
For me, it’s a real boost to know I’m helping others. My depression has lifted because the Group gives me a sense of purpose and belonging. We go on outings 4 times a year and these are so important as some of the group wouldn’t get the chance to get out and about otherwise.
And what’s more, we are shouting out about the things that matter to us! We’ve written to local Councillors and MSPs backing the Charity’s campaign for more people to access lung rehab where and when they need it! And I’ve completed CHSS’s Chest Voices Training* which has enabled me to chair a local patient & carer group. All of this would have been unthinkable back when I was diagnosed.
How YOU can help…
My biggest wish for Christmas is that everyone with lung disease across Scotland can access the same high level of rehabilitation, care and support that we have. As my story shows, it is a life changing experience. The Charity are working all year round to make this a reality but there’s much more to be done!
In 2018 and beyond, your donations mean they can continue delivering the very best support – both at home and in the community – to the thousands of people across Scotland living not only with lung disease, but with heart and stroke conditions too.
As a loyal supporter, you know how much Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland relies on your generous support. So please make a Christmas gift today to make spirits brighter all across Scotland.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my letter.
With best wishes to you and yours,
Ian Baxter, ‘Forfar Airways’ COPD Support Group
PS: CHSS never judge, they simply aim to be there for everyone in Scotland who needs them. If you or someone you know is living with lung disease, I urge you to visit the Charity’s brilliant website mylungsmylife.org – this was a huge help to me and my family.