Marion Lang’s Story

WHY AM I SO BREATHLESS?

My husband, Peter, and I run a small Native Plant Nursery here in Mildura.We love our small business but with it comes complications if one of us is sick or absent. While it has been difficult to keep it going at times it has also been our therapy and reason to get up each morning.

2010: I had noted an increase in breathlessness over a 4 year + period but put it down to lack of fitness and age. Whenever I get a cold I cough and cough and need to sleep upright in the recliner chair to get relief. You are 50 Marion and time is catching up with you!

While having radiation treatment for breast cancer Feb/March 2010, I became more aware of it. Any hill was a major mountain and the energy to do nursery work was decreasing daily. I was told by many that it took a year to get over cancer treatment but the questions kept popping up so in the months following thought to get it checked out.

December 2010 my doctor ordered a spirometer test and found moderate obstruction of airways. And so the search began. After asthma and emphysema treatment nothing changed so I was sent to Melbourne to visit a specialist at the Royal Melbourne. After a CT scan here in Mildura the result came back as emphysema. Fortunately my specialist queried this and after I sent down the CT for him to review he said it was most likely LAM.

That’s the clinical side of it in a nut shell. The emotional side is far more complex. Having had two major diagnosis now, I have come to realise that nothing is simple from a distance. I learnt that my breast cancer was invasive over the phone and now I was hearing from my specialist in Melbourne over the phone that I had LAM. That’s ok, it sounds gentle and cute so it mustn’t be too bad I think to myself. For some reason I was so happy it wasn’t emphysema. He tells me to look it up on the web but not to take fright as he thinks mine is the not so aggressive form. My specialist also informs me of the LAM clinic at The Alfred and is happy for me to transfer to the specialist there, for this I am truly grateful. But again I had to do the ringing, the searching, the research to make sure I knew what I was talking about at the same time talk to customers, smile pleasantly and plan their garden beds.

Throughout the Breast Cancer treatment I went through a grieving process. There is no way around it but to go straight through the middle of it. With the wonderful support of my husband, family and church community I did come out the other side. I was more prepared second time around, knew all the signs and symptoms and thought I would be a lot tougher to the process. Hello…. Same thing all over again, the uncontrollable tears, not wanting to face people, no interest in food and most of the ordinary day tasks becoming too hard to even think about. Slowly I crawled out of the gloom through keeping things as simple as possible and seeing the beauty in the world and people around me.

It has been an inspiration to meet up with, read about and share experiences with other Ladies with LAM. The support group in Melbourne, Facebook contact and the LARA website have all provided me with the encouragement and knowledge that I need to face this disease head on.

I have two aims in life now: 1. To live as well as I can within my limits and 2. To listen – really listen – to others who may be going through a tough time themselves. In the first instance I am starting to do things that I have always put off and one of them is singing lessons. From a young age I have sung in choirs and led the singing in church but never been trained to breath properly. Well, now after a few lessons, I practice my breathing whenever I can throughout the day, while walking, while doing the dishes and sitting at the potting bench. My confidence has returned to sing out loud. I laugh when the young people at church play too fast and remind them that this granny needs time to take a breath between lines now! But what fun we have together. And as for 2. I am still trying to perfect the art of listening.

Life is a blessing, it’s not perfect, but in each day there is something to be treasured and held dear.