You may have ended up here because you scanned a QR code, because someone forwarded you the link, or because I asked you on one of my long runs.
However you ended up here, thank you.
I may not know you. You might be someone who likes to chat with colleagues to make the day pass more quickly, or who loves setting the world to rights over a beer or three; you might own a restaurant or coffee shop and love the banter with your regulars and the joy of discussing a new dish, vintage or blend; you might be a business-person who thrives on using your conversational skills to manage your team, solve problems or close a deal. Alternatively, you might be an experienced athlete, gym-bunny, runner or cyclist, who thrills to the beat of your own heart, both indoors and out; you might be a musician, artist or DJ, creating and sharing your creativity and passion, or that of others, with audiences big and small.
You may be one or many of these things according to time zone and personal preference, but for every single one, you need to breathe. To fill your lungs to capacity and deliver the words and feelings that allow you to connect with others, taste your food, make your legs move, deliver your best and take life by the scruff of the neck. If that’s not how you view the simple act of inflating your lungs, then you are supremely lucky.
My dad was a sportsman and singer, and a teacher for 44 years. I watched him read stories in assemblies to hold a room of over 900 children rapt, and take part in school plays dressed in a tutu and leggings to play the ‘Bad Fairy’ and bring the house down to make the children happy. His contribution to the Suffolk ale industry and the wine-growing regions of France can also not be underestimated…
He worked tirelessly to be the best he could at everything, and everything he did he loved. Nothing was ever “too high, too hard or too heavy” for him to have a go at and he gave life everything – and still does as far as he can. Dad was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) at the start of 2012 and, through absolutely no fault of his own, the things he loves doing and worked to achieve are slowly being taken away because he doesn’t have the breath to do them.
IPF is an illness that is not well-known, and even less well understood, although that is now starting to change. For the sufferer, knowing your lungs are deteriorating is frightening and frustrating; as a family watching it happen, it is heartbreaking and the feeling of powerlessness overwhelming. As a runner, I count every step as a blessing.
It’s thanks to charities like Breathing Mattters and the British Lung Foundation that the research into treatments for IPF has progressed so much in the past year. They have set up a campaign, using the power of Twitter, to try to raise awareness of the illness and their work, and they are trying to get #Breathtember to trend in September.
This is the second year I have supported #Breathtember; I had never used Twitter before last year, but it seemed to go quite well (full story here). This year, I’m going to post a picture on Twitter of a different person holding up the Breathing Matters sign every single day of September, with the #Breathtember tag. I run into work every day and have made friends with a number of people whose routines coincide with my route – they have all been identified as possible photographic targets! All I’m asking is that you follow me on Twitter and re-tweet these pictures to your followers and encourage them to re-re-tweet them to spread the word. Alternatively, share this page and the photos via any channel you prefer. I’m not asking for money, just awareness, but social media is powerful stuff and the simple act of re-tweeting/sharing every day would mean the world to me.
Time flies. When you’re having fun and when you’re trying to stop it slipping away. I can’t believe it’s been a year since the last time I asked for help with this, because so much has changed and the finishing line I never wanted to reach seems to be rapidly coming into sharp relief. We also have an oxygen machine called Brian, but that’s a whole other story.
Thank you so much for your time, hopefully we’ll meet in the Twittersphere or in person. If not, then I hope you love the things you love just a bit more from now on, for the very fact that you can still do them.