Woman Fights For Lung Disease Research

Margaret Zier suffers from a lethal lung disease – but it is not stopping her and other Newport patients from joining a nationwide fight for recognition and research. Around 4,800 people United Kingdom-wide, 240 in Wales, are diagnosed every year with pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive, incurable illness causing hardening of the lungs.

There is little research, and says Mrs Zier, little hope or effective treatment offered those diagnosed with a disease that brings increased shortness of breath, most commonly leading to respiratory or heart failure, and death.

“Research into pulmonary fibrosis and lung conditions in general is drastically underfunded,” said 69-year-old Mrs Zier, of Allt-yr-yn, Newport, chairwoman of a new Breathe Easy support group in the city, supported by the British Lung Foundation charity.

There are now more than 130 such groups nationwide, with 22,000 members, offering vital support and care, and a growing voice in the BLF’s campaign for increased research.

The above incidence is for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, cases with no known cause. But many campaigners believe lung disease research suffers in the scramble for funding because these conditions are perceived as largely the result of smoking.

“I have never smoked and we want the recognition that not all of us have been smokers. We have a raw deal,” said Mrs Zier, who battled breast cancer before her latest diagnosis. “There’s no cure and little help (for pulmonary fibrosis). I have been diagnosed three years and it was a terrible shock. I was told more or less to just get on with things.

“I have four-monthly checks for progression. You cannot take deep breaths and have a persistent cough. Sometimes it is difficult to get upstairs. It’s like a cloud over you, but I’m not at the last stage. I’m well enough to fight and we are determined to get and maintain attention.”