If you’ve ever tried to breathe through a straw of any period of time, you might have an inkling of what it’s like to suffer with a lung disease or other health issue that impacts breathing.
The difference between trying that out once or twice and actually living with a lung disease, is that you can put the straw away.
For many others says Diane Gillis, a nurse and co-ordinator for Vancouver Island Better Breathers Clubs, they face a lifetime of challenges to simply get a good intake of oxygen with each breath.
The Better Breathers Clubs on the Island — including one on the Saanich Peninsula — meet regularly to discuss treatments, medication, activity, education and support. Not only do the clubs serve people with conditions such as chronic bronchitis, lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, Emphysema, lung cancer, allergies and asthma — they also welcome their families, friends, care givers and anyone else who wants to learn ways of living with shortness of breath.
“I always say it’s about better breathing for all,” Gillis said.
The club, which is run through the B.C. Lung Association draws upon resources through Island Health and the local community to offer education on a variety of related topics.
For instance, the Monday, Nov. 28 meeting of the Saanich Peninsula Better Breathers will have two fitness and aquatics coordinators from Panorama Recreation in to talk about staying active. Gillis said for people with reduced lung capacity, staying fit and even mobile can be a challenge.
“Some people tend to stop moving,” she said, explaining for anyone suffering from a condition that causes shortness of breath, being active can be difficult or even painful.
Even walking around the house, something most people take for granted, can be hard for people in this position.
“When this happens, people tend to avoid activity and as a result, they become less fit and have even more shortness of breath.”
Keeping active, she said, increases lung capacity but getting there must be done in ways that encourage people to keep moving, rather than too much, too fast, forcing people away.
And it’s here that Gillis raises an important point of the Better Breathers Club — to encourage people to get up, get out and be active and find their way to club meetings. That, she continued, is for good reason.
“Some people tend to stay close to home as a result of having a lung issue. They may no longer partake in activities they used to enjoy and they can become isolated.”
The clubs help people to interact with others in the same or similar situation. The interaction, said Gillis, can start with finding out there are other people diagnosed with the same condition and discovering what they are doing to stay active in their community.
“It’s about not giving up,” Gillis said. “Knowledge is phenomenal for continued good health.”
That’s where the Better Breathers come in. Their meetings, said Gillis, offer information on diet, medication, services and supports for people in need — and the all-important warnings, tips and vaccination details around flu season.
Those with chronic lung diseases are particularly susceptible to the flu and pneumonia, Gillis said.
“It’s education about things in life that can be helpful,” she added.
The Better Breathers Club costs nothing and is open to anyone, thanks to the B.C. Lung Association.
On the Saanich Peninsula Gillis said the club meets every fourth Monday of the month at the SHOAL Centre, 10030 Resthaven Drive, Sidney. Meetings starts at 1:30 p.m.
Anyone who wishes to become a member can call Kelly at the B.C. Lung Association 1-800-665-5864, or come out to one the meetings.