Neal Thomson

I spent my childhood inhaling a great deal of grain dust from farm fields. I was also exposed to farm chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers. By the time I reached adulthood, I suspect damage to my lungs was already well underway. But back then, I really didn’t think too much about the health of my lungs. Typically after a good night’s sleep, I felt fine. I continued to feel healthy well into my career.

How did your career affect your health?

From 1974 to 1990, I had a commercial wholesale operation selling various chemicals – chemicals that were not controlled by government regulations or WHMIS like they are today. As a business owner and then later as a primary salesperson of chemicals, I spent most of my time driving from one company to another in Northern Canada. My work meant a lot of driving, and a lot of driving meant a lot of sitting – major sitting. Being on the road was great for business, but not so great for my health and wellbeing.

I was athletic, and I loved to exercise. But my work didn’t allow me to exercise very much. Working long hours, being on the road, and raising a family – each had its own stressors. The little exercise I got went a long way to help alleviate that stress – but perhaps not enough to eradicate a growing, silent lung condition.

When did you realize you had a lung condition?

By the time I hit my mid-forties, I started to experience shortness of breath, especially when I took the stairs or when there was a low-pressure system overhead. My doctor diagnosed me with asthma and prescribed inhalers. I’ve experimented with all kinds of inhaler medications over the years until finally landing with Spiriva and Advair – I currently take just three puffs a day.

By the time I was sixty I was more than ready to retire. My amazing, supportive wife Jill and I decided to head to Campbell River BC. We love it here. As we get older and have more time to do what we want, we appreciate the health and fitness regime we’ve developed.

What does your regime look like?

We’re early risers, and we both work out first thing in the morning. I chose to work out at a public fitness centre, not just because of the excellent staff and equipment, but also because it is more affordable, and it is open to the general public. I now have a whole new set of friends from all walks of life. It’s a wonderful social community and has been enormously supportive and beneficial in maintaining my physical and mental health. A couple of years ago I had developed a heart issue and had to stop going there for a while. When things were medically cleared for me to return to my regime, I couldn’t wait to get back to see my friends – regular gym goers like me who work out Monday to Friday. My regime is very structured, and looks like this on weekdays:

8:30am – 35 minutes on a treadmill working to a slight incline (about six km)

9:05am – 28 minutes on a stationary bike

9:35am – 15 minutes lifting weights

After working out, I head home for lunch, have a bit of a rest, and then head back out to do errands. Or if the weather is good, I like to get out and play a round of golf with friends. I try to get in between 9,000 to 11,000 steps a day. Eating regular, heart/kidney smart meals, getting plenty of exercise, having a supportive social community, and building in rest periods have helped a great deal in managing my health.

What else do you do to keep healthy?

Right now I’m holding my own, managing the best I can. I have recently had a lung functionality test, but have not heard the results just yet. Hopefully, I am maintaining the functionality I have. I keep my regular doctor visits and monitor how I’m feeling on a daily basis.

Additionally – and given the potency of the cleaning chemicals on the shelves today, Jill and I make our own cleaning solution. It does the trick and helps keep our home environment free from any undo stress from chemicals.

We also ensure we get enough quality time with family. I want to be around as long as I can for my wife, children, and grandchildren, which is my primary motivator to keep up with my regime. Family time can sometimes be hectic, but we have learned to relax and enjoy the times we have together.

On a final note, there is one thing I wish had happened earlier – I wish I’d been referred to the BC Lung Association sooner – as soon as I was diagnosed with a lung condition. I’m grateful for the educational resources at BC Lung. I’m also glad I learned about their Better Breathers Program, of which I am now a member. It is so helpful to get to know people in similar situations and learn how they thrive and flourish despite having to cope with breathing issues.


Page Last Updated: 04/06/2020