“Make Every Breath Come Alive!” A Personal Story from a Lung Assoc. Supporter

July 6th, 2017 by Smokers' Helpline

Today we wish a very happy 54th birthday to Diana Bolger, a very special friend and supporter of the Lung Association. She dropped by our office yesterday, and while she looks fantastic, Diana is going through a difficult time in her journey towards lung health. She is now undergoing testing to determine if she is an eligible candidate to receive a lung transplant.

Diana has a very important message to share. If you ever have the wonderful opportunity to chat with her, you’ll quickly see that she is very passionate about the issues of lung health and motivating people to improve their own health and well-being. Her approach is frank, up-front and honest. “I’m not afraid to tell it like it is, and I give people a reality check,” she says.

Diana is living with severe COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) which she admits affects her life in many significant ways. Today, she wants to inform people about the importance of clean, healthy, scent-free and smokefree air in our indoor and outdoor environments. In particular, she wants others to consider how secondhand and thirdhand smoke affects people like her who have chronic lung conditions. “If people knew, I think they would care and understand, and they’d do their best to stop contaminating the air with poisons.”

Thirdhand smoke is generally considered to be residual nicotine and other chemicals left on a variety of indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke. This residue is thought to react with common indoor pollutants to create a toxic mix. Thirdhand smoke contains cancer-causing substances, posing a potential health hazard to nonsmokers who are exposed to it (especially children).

Studies show that thirdhand smoke clings to hair, skin, clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, bedding, carpets, dust, vehicles and other surfaces, even long after smoking has stopped. This is another trigger that Diana tries her best to avoid due to its devastating effect on her breathing and her overall health.

Diana smoked for 35 years and understands the struggles of being addicted to cigarettes. She respects that it is a person’s choice if they smoke, however she emphasizes that she really wants to encourage young people to not start, she wants to help people quit, and she believes this will positively impact many others including the loved ones of people who smoke.

She has been smokefree for 8 years. She believes her COPD is attributable to her smoking, and she wants people to see and understand the devastating consequences of developing this form of chronic disease.

A short conversation with Diana provides insight into the impact that the disease has on her life. “Imagine activities that you love get taken away from you, and it’s a slow process.” She describes the decrease in her quality of life over the past 8 years. She is unable to go out to many public places because even a short exposure to secondhand smoke can cause her to get sick and to be in bed for days, weeks or months depending on how her body fights it. She says, “I can’t go shopping. If I’m going out, I have to watch the time and try to go at a time that’s less busy. The less people around, the better.” She avoids going out to restaurants and even has to get her daughter to do her grocery shopping. She describes herself as house-bound.

Diana wants people to be aware of the impact that secondhand and thirdhand smoke may have on people like her. She encourages others: “Be conscious of this, show respect, and consider how someone could get ill from exposure to smoke.” Some solutions include: avoid smoking in public places to minimize exposing others to secondhand smoke and being mindful that your clothing may be carrying toxins from thirdhand smoke which may impact others. She feels that posters promoting ‘scent-free environments’ should also include a reminder about thirdhand smoke. Just as perfumes are strongly discouraged because of their impact on lung health (for ex. allergies), thirdhand cigarette smoke should also be discouraged.

Her passion for life and for helping people is very apparent—she has a sparkle in her eye, a huge smile and her positive energy radiates. Despite having to stop to catch her breath while talking, Diana’s enthusiasm and determination appear unstoppable. Recently, she even bought a Harley motorcycle!

Diana is eager to share her message broadly. “I try to motivate people. I use positivity. My new motto is ‘Make every breath come alive!’ I don’t get caught up in people’s drama or emotional garbage. I don’t have time for that. I’m fighting for my breath everyday.”

Diana can be reached on Facebook or email dbolger991@gmail.com. She is happy to do presentations to various groups to educate on lung health and smoking cessation. “I’m just someone that cares about you and your well-being… and your family, because this affects us all.”