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Elaine’s story

7 April, 2022

Picture this: a relatively fit exercise professional going for her over 50’s health check, mentions an irritating little cough. Sent for an X-ray and next thing booked in to see a consultant. Familiar? Maybe, maybe not but this was me and the beginning of a long and often winding road that led to a diagnosis of IPF, interstitial pneumonitis and apparently, there was no cure or, at the time, a suitable treatment.

Of course I knew absolutely nothing about IPF, no one I knew heard of it and so, I hit the internet and did I get a shock. The following months I can only describe as very hard, depression hit me hard and I went from local community hero to feeling like a big fat zero. Fat is no exaggeration. In order to calm down what was a significant progression, I was put on steroids and they did the job but I gained a lot of weight. Net gain – improved lung but net loss, my mobility went downhill.

What to do? Well, I gave myself a good talking to, had a long chat with my doctor and was brutally honest. For me, quality of life was the most important thing. I felt better when I was teaching exercise, but even washing up exhausted me. I made a plan. I went into retrain mode. All of the things I was teaching others in the past, I started doing. The pandemic had hit us all by then and I was isolated, at home each day so no excuse.
Small things at first, sorting out a drawer, walking around my apartment to something upbeat on the stereo, applying the do a bit, rest a bit method. Before too long I found I could do more.

I started teaching again! Online classes for members of a theatre group I run for disabled adults, saw my health improve and the group went from feeling alone to feeling fine, mental health rocketed. Nominated as a community champion for doing classes during lockdown, proud does not even come near. I was back, not necessarily better but certainly wiser. Had I not started to exercise again, this article would have a different tone for sure.

It is advisable to always seek medical advice before starting any exercise, but if you make small changes and build on them, you can do something to help yourself. It is down to moving your mind and thoughts from dark to light, if you have a bad day, acknowledge it and do what you can without guilt. Rest, work and play, sing, dance and laugh and mainly, be good to yourselves, you are worth it!