Support group launched to help patients with lung disease in Red Deer, Alberta

Mac Dunbar (SUPPLIED PHOTO)

Mac Dunbar

Mac Dunbar, a 70-year-old retired chemical engineer, believes he would not have access to the help he needs for his debilitating lung illness if it wasn’t for a new support group that was kick started by The Lung Association, Alberta & NWT (“TLA”).

Dunbar, who was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2004, has taken part in the new support group weekly in Red Deer. The Lung Association hopes to locate others in need of support and encourages residents to take a simple breathing test SATURDAY (Aug. 23) at the Red Deer Market as part of TLA’s Powered By Breathing campaign, generously sponsored by Nicorette and Nicoderm.

“When you have a debilitating disease, you really need to talk to somebody who is in the same boat as you to get some idea of what form (this illness) could take,” said Dunbar who admits he is in the early stages of COPD, a long-term lung disease that slowly damages a patient’s airways making it harder to breathe.

“Up until this support group was created, I didn’t really know anybody else who had diagnosed lung issues.”

Dunbar says having a handful of “kindred-spirits” around him can help him learn from other patients’ experiences and their difficulties.

“That is an amazing part of a support group,” said Dunbar.

This year, TLA is celebrating its 75th anniversary with its Powered By Breathing campaign. The campaign hopes to screen 75,000 Albertans for early detection of lung illnesses – like COPD.  Early detection is important as doctors can use better treatments to reduce symptoms as well as preventing the illness from getting any worse.

More Canadian women have died from COPD than breast cancer since 2009, according to figures from Statistics Canada. COPD is also the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.

“Anybody who has an issue with their lung health needs to be treated — early detection is important,” said Dunbar.

Mac Dunbar

Mac Dunbar

Volunteers with TLA at the farmers’ market at 4751 43 St. in Red Deer will also ask shoppers “what they would do if they could breathe better” to spread awareness about lung disease as part of the campaign.

Dunbar says he would walk and not take a golf cart during a round of golf and would love to snorkel while he is on a Mexican vacation – only if he was able to breathe better.

“I couldn’t get more than 10-feet away from shore because I couldn’t breathe,” said Dunbar while describing one vacation he had in Mexico. “I would love to be able to go snorkeling again.”

Since 1939, TLA has been the primary information source for lung health. The organization continues to raise funds for critical research and patient support programs and advocates for changes in public policy.

What would you do if you could breathe better? Let us know by tweeting us using the hashtag #PoweredByBreathing, sending a Facebook message, emailing carol@ab.lung.ca or by filling your answer below!

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