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Living with COPD

Ian Venamore and his wife Judy.

Ian Venamore used to describe himself as a very active person. He enjoyed outdoor activities, playing sport and was quite the handy man around the house. It was in 2003 when he began to experience subtle symptoms which belied the seriousness of the condition he now lives with. Ian was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which is a progressive disease of the lungs causing shortness of breath. Ian shares his personal journey with COPD as he discovers the importance of knowing your body and understanding the limits of your condition and health needs. 

When Ian began to first experience his symptoms, he refused to believe in a bigger picture. Having been exposed to irritants in industrial plants, machinery and like many of his generation was a regular smoker, he had every excuse for each of his health problems. With the push of his wife to seek help, Ian was in his mid-fifties when he was told he had COPD and had already lost 25% of his lung capacity.

“If I was short of breath, I told myself I was out of shape and getting older. When it took me longer to return to normal breathing pattern, I told myself that my age was a major contributing factor.

“I guess my positive, cavalier or casual approach to life convinced me that I was somehow immune to lung disease and it was something other people suffered,” Mr Venamore said.

In 2011, Ian was forced by events to confront reality. Day to day living became a complicated task with the need for Ian to understand the limits of his condition and plan activities around it.  

“My breathing was considerably worse and beginning to impact my everyday living and things began to take longer to do. Everyday activities like fishing, gardening, playing with grandchildren were becoming a chore.

“After consulting with a respiratory specialist, another breathing test result showed a 50% loss of predicted capacity.

“I faced reality and my own mortality squarely in the eye for the very first time. I also set a firm retirement date,” Mr Venamore said.

Ian is now cared for by a multi-disciplinary team who include his thoracic physician, his general practitioner (GP) and his loving wife of 51 years.

“My thoracic physician is a recognised specialist in COPD treatment. He provides my GP with comprehensive and timely updates on all aspects of my treatment, current and intended.

“My GP is very capable, thorough and ensures that my general health is rigorously maintained to enable focus on my most significant health issue,” Mr Venamore said.

Fast forward to 2018 and Ian admits living with COPD is a day to day proposition. Ian expresses the importance of taking ownership and knowing your body and its responses is vital to controlling the symptoms each day. 

“I am a firm believer in taking a large part of the responsibility for my own health. After all, if I don’t, how can I expect the very best of my treating doctors?

“I believe in doing what I can and being honest with myself. Planning is a big part of my everyday living. I have to if I am to conserve energy and make each day count,” Mr Venamore said.

The Have the CHAT campaign, an initiative by the Lung Foundation, aims at working with health professionals to raise awareness of the symptoms of COPD exacerbation to reduce avoidable hospitalisations and keep patients well. With 1 in 7 Australians over 40 suffering from COPD, it is crucial to raise awareness in the community of the disease as many people, just like Ian, won’t know they have it.

“It is a helpful message for family members, who like my wife, often know the person with COPD better than they know themselves and can keep an eye out for changes in the lung health of their loved one,” Mr Venamore said.

Are you ready to have the CHAT?  Find out more at havethechat.lungfoundation.com.au.


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