‘keep going, keep going, keep going’


Your beliefs about your lung disease could be killing you faster than the disease itself.

The F word. FEV. We all get to know that FEV is the measure of our breathlessness. We fall well below what is the average for normal people our age, gender and weight. The FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) is the amount of air we can force out in a second. But our lungs are like overblown rubber balloons that have lost the oomph to push the air out. Confusingly, ours is a problem of expelling our breaths, not of catching our breaths.

I get my FEV tested every three months or so at my chest doctor’s surgery. After 15 years on their books, I know the practice nurse well. We exchange views on contemporary novels (she was disappointed by Jeffrey Archer’s second book in the Clifton Chronicles) and she gives me a weak smile as my weight hovers at 43kg. She conducts the hated spirometry. You will all know the mantra repeated over and over as you breath into a hose the size of a vacuum cleaner, growing more faint while the voice urges you to, ‘keep going, keep going, keep going’.

The needle has barely lifted on the paper. I look away. I don’t not want to know my numbers. They feed into beliefs about how sick I am. I once asked and was told my lungs were functioning at about 12% of what a woman my age should be enjoying. I had to let go of that figure. It was not proportionate to how I was feeling, or to what I could do.

I am alive today because I have fought lung disease with my mind and spirit as well as with my body.

I’m living on 12%, the equivalent struggle to hanging out on the lower slopes of Mt Everest, yet I have met dozens of people with much better numbers than mine who are on oxygen, in wheelchairs, on zimmers, toes turned up waiting for death’s knock on the door!

They have given up on exercise because, ‘what’s the point?’ They have given up on good diet because ‘it doesn’t matter what crap I eat’. Some even smoke, because ‘I’m a goner anyway’.

In this respect, the medical profession does us no favours telling us we have a fatal, incurable disease. FEV critical. I call it ‘Death by Acronym’.

Believe you can be better than you are, take steps to be better than you are, and you will be.

All things are possible.

5 thoughts on “‘keep going, keep going, keep going’

  1. Hi and thanks for your post Barb. I’m a journalist who struggles with my industry and its presentation of “truth” so your blog resonates. I know I’m part of something which pretends to present the truth but in fact distorts the world and its events and its people immeasurably. I agree that the news is morbid and unnecessarily so. There is tragedy but do we really need to know about the man shot in the head at home by his brother? Why does that lead in a big town like the one where I live? Seriously, what does this tell us about anything? (Other than there’s bad blood in a family in the western suburbs). I’ll tell you a story … when I was a young journalist I reported Aboriginal affairs for a large organisation. I got lots of coverage for the horror I reported. I made a name for myself doing this. But as the years went on I realised that one horror exposed did not mean one horror fixed, alleviated or even merely attended to. As a young reporter this was distressing. So I started looking for the good news in Aboriginal affairs. There was plenty. I particularly loved the story about the remote Aboriginal community which kicked out the store owner and his business, which was selling white bread, sugar and low grade everything to a community which had access to little else. Without the store, the community began growing vegetables and buying in higher grade meat. The dietician who worked with this community measured the health effects. Diabetes rates dropped for a start. The results were amazing. However, this story barely got a run. Most of my good news stories were “pushed down” the bulletins. No bleeding, no leading, as you say. I still struggle with this whole concept – what to report and what not to. I know what works, what is currently acceptable, but I struggle with what’s useful, responsible and empowering (journalists don’t think enough about how our work disempowers people). However, and this is the rub – Surely someone should expose the terribleness, the corruption, the hypocrisy that exists. We pay taxes, elect people, pay people to look after our interests. They often fail to do this. Someone has to point this out. For me it’s a question of balance. And currently we are very unbalanced. I now take photographs of people in my suburb and post them with stories about their lives. It’s always good news. My friends love this. They love the stories. I find a lot of joy in doing this and I think others find joy in looking at it. For now this is where I’m at.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thank you. Yes, Jo. The story about the man shot in the head by his brother is a good example of Big News being toxic. (I know journalists are mostly good, over-worked people who start out with the highest ideals).

      ‘Man shoots brother’ only makes good news sense when set in a bigger piece about family violence, or guns in Western Sydney. Shorn of context, it is news pollution. We are bombarded with detail and updates, but seldom given the time or space to understand the bigger picture.

      Your revolution in reporting Aboriginal affairs is on the right track, according to the philosopher Alain de Botton, who has wrestled with this beast of a problem in his stunning new book ‘The News’ (Penguin).

      The ‘People’s Philosopher’, Alain, argues that the news has an enormous and largely uncomprehended power; the power to assemble the picture that citizens end up having of one another, the power to dictate what other people will be like.

      “If, for example we are regularly told that many of our countrymen are crazed and violent, we will be filled with fear and distrust every time we go outside.

      “If we receive the message that money and status matter above all else, we will feel humiliated by our ordinary lives.

      “If it’s implied that all politicians lie, we will quietly put our idealism and innocence aside and mock every one of their plans and pronouncements.

      “And if we are told the economy is the most important indicator of fulfilment and that it will be a disaster for a decade at least, we will be unable to face reality with much confidence,” he writes.

      Bad news is making us sick.

      Thanks Jo for your ‘insiders’ contribution.
      Keep taking photographs. Bless you for wanting a better world.


  2. Barbara, I agree completely about how attitude affects your health. Over the years, I have been able to do some rather amazing things when I get the brain, body, heart and spirit all going in the same direction. I particularly enjoyed the conversation between you and Jo in the comments above. Thank you. HuntMode


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