Local couple spreading awareness of COPD
They haven't let the fact that they both live with with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — a disease which narrows the airways and limits the flow of oxygen — stop them.
Cunningham, who said she developed COPD through the combination of a genetic predisposition and a smoking habit in her youth, has been on oxygen for the past 18 years.
When she travels, she wears an oxygen canister on her hip, and has to arrange to pick up new canisters along the route.
In contrast, Eyre's COPD is much less severe. He was only diagnosed with the condition two years ago.
While their past travels have been vacations, this year their annual trek has a more serious purpose.
On what has been dubbed the 2012 COPD Lungevity Tour, Cunningham and Eyre will criss-cross Ontario on their motorcycle from mid-August to mid-September.
They'll make stops in 15 cities to speak with local groups about the importance of early COPD diagnosis. Cunningham said they also want to inspire others with COPD to live life to the fullest.
“Lots of times when people are diagnosed, they're so far advanced that it's difficult,” she said.
“Bruce and I talked about it, and we really want to get the message out to the people that it doesn't have to be that long. If you have shortness of breath, you need to go and see your physician. Early diagnosis is the answer.”
The Lungevity tour is presented by the Ontario Lung Association and sponsored by Medigas and Boehringer Ingleheim.
“Brenda and Bruce have been volunteering as Ontario Lung Association COPD ambassadors for quite some time now,” George Habib, president and CEO of the Ontario Lung Association, said in an email statement.
“Their efforts continue to help increase awareness about COPD and the importance of early diagnosis. We are thrilled they have taken on the 2012 Lungevity tour as they drive their messages of hope and inspiration into communities across the province.”
Habib encourages all current and former smokers over the age of 40 who show respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath to get a breathing test known as a spirometry test.
“With early diagnosis and treatment, COPD can be managed so patients can breathe easier,” he said.
“That’s why it’s so important that people who may be at risk of developing COPD are made aware and encouraged to ask their health-care provider about a spirometry test.”
The Lungevity tour will make a stop in Greater Sudbury Aug. 27.
The city's Lung Disease Support Group is hosting an event at the Quality Inn starting at 9:30 a.m.
Participants are invited to learn more about living with lung disease from Cunningham, Eyre and other support group members, as well as a representative from the Ontario Lung Association.
Cunningham admits to being a bit anxious about the tour.
“I think the anxiety is in saying the right things at the right times. It's not so much the ride, because we know we can do it.”
The couple's travels would never have happened if Cunningham hadn't found the courage to ride behind Eyre on the motorcycle in the first place. She was initially so scared she was shaking.
“By the end of the block, I realized it's the best thing in the world,” she said. “It's a place where I have freedom, and I know Bruce feels the same way. As long as we're on the bike, we're normal — well, not quite normal, because I have to have an oxygen tank strapped to my hip.
“But I can do things on the bike, and I see things that I never, ever dreamt I could do.”
To register for the Lungevity tour event in Sudbury, phone 705-524-9864 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Lung Disease Support Group, visit www.ldsg.ca.