Each 140 Character Statement Might Reach Someone New and Make Them Aware of an Illness That I Wish I Knew Nothing About

Vicky Reynolds is one of our #Breathtember Champions.  Here is why she joined in the #Breathtember Challenge.

I have been a ‘fully fledged’ runner since January 2012 and the process of running, distance especially, is now an integral part of my life. There are few things I enjoy more than being able to head out with a carefully-crafted playlist and let my mind drift while singing along. I count myself incredibly lucky to be able to do this. Sadly, not everyone is as lucky as I am.

My dad – an A-grade athlete across the board in his younger years – was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) at the start of 2012. For the sufferer, knowing your lungs are deteriorating is a frightening and – in my dad’s case especially – frustrating thing. As a family member, it is heart-breaking and the feeling of powerlessness is overwhelming. As a runner, I now count every single step as a blessing.

I found Breathing Matters by chance after Dad was first diagnosed and we were scrambling around for information. As time went on, Dad collected a variety of specialists, the Breathing Matters website got an update and we found out more information because we knew where to look. I realized that awareness is key to making information accessible to those at the start of their journey with IPF and also focusing the minds of those who can help. That’s why #Breathtember really struck me.

I can now run without really thinking, so I challenged myself to think about it and document some form of training every day to show how lucky I am to be able to do it. Added complexity would be provided by trips away with work for 11 days of the month, meaning that I would have to fit in an appropriate activity around fluctuating time-zones, local customs, client demands and workloads. I would also be away for a birthday weekend, which would contribute its own set of obstacles…

I always regarded Twitter as an annoyance I didn’t really ‘get’, so setting up @VicksIsRunning (https://twitter.com/VicksIsRunning) was a challenge on many levels. I left it until about a week into the month before I let people know what I was doing so I could check I was technologically capable. By then I had potentially been tweeting and posting photos since 31st August, but it was entirely possible I had just been sending messages to myself.

People listened. I gathered some followers, had some encouraging responses and set up a blog (http://vicksisrunning.wordpress.com/) so I could explain things a bit more. I contacted Breathing Matters and they were listening too; they even sent me some banners to wear (they’ve since made it to the Oxford Half Marathon). At times it was a bit stressful and I worried I wouldn’t find anything to say, but I always seemed to see or hear something and as the month went on it became easier. I made a montage of all my photos at the end and it was quite emotional thinking back over everything; a highlight (possibly through sleep-deprivation) was my trip to Abu Dhabi I think.

It’s amazing how something you do every day takes on a whole new sense when you shift your focus around a bit: people were watching me and every Tweet I made was read by someone. Each 140 character statement might reach someone new and make them aware of an illness that I wish I knew nothing about. It also meant I had to think about that illness – and what it meant – every single day, which is something I had previously deliberately tried not to do. That was very hard and incredibly upsetting at times, but has actually helped me feel like I have things much more under control – in my own head at least!

I caught up with some friends last week and one of them mentioned that they had been following what I was up to, which started a group conversation about the charity and the illness. Knowing that I have increased awareness among a few people has been amazing, but increasing my own, albeit in a very different way, came as a complete surprise and one for which I am exceptionally grateful.

I’ve kept it all up too, so if you fancy having a look through the archive and maybe keeping up with what I’ve been doing since September that it’s all there. That way I’ll hopefully have even more followers in time for next year…