Chris Huckstepp says he first noticed deterioration in his lung function in 1994.
“I was running for a train and when I just managed to get on as the doors closed, I felt so out of breath and oxygen I thought I was going to die,” he says.
At the time, he was living in the UK and it was then he was diagnosed with emphysema and told to stop smoking by his doctor, which he did.
“My so-called ‘emphysema’ slowly got worse over the years, and in 2000 I had moved to the U.S. and signed on with a pulmonary specialist here,” Huckstepp says. “In 2001 I was asked if I had ever taken a genetic test for my emphysema, which I hadn’t, and that’s when I found out I had Alpha-1.”
Huckstepp was prescribed an Alpha 1-proteinase inhibitor, which he says has been effective in significantly lowering his rate of lung deterioration.
“Since then, some things had to change. I’ve stopped playing tennis, and I find it difficult to walk and talk at the same time. Every now and again I have to stop and catch my breath.”
In July of last year, Huckstepp began taking Daliresp (Roflumilast), a pill taken daily to decrease the frequency of exacerbations. It was approved in 2011 by the Food and Drug Administration and is an inhibitor of an enzyme called phosphodiesterase type 4 (PDE-4). It represents the first new class of drugs that has been developed for COPD in more than 20 years.
“I talked to my doctor about it and started taking it in July and almost immediately I had a significant improvement in my breathing—to the point I could do daily exercises without a recovery period,” he says.
“That is the good side of Daliresp. But, there are side effects including upset stomach, inability to sleep, and a feeling of exhaustion and complete lack of energy. When my doctor prescribed this, he warned me about these side effects—another which is weight loss.”
Huckstepp, 57, says that since being diagnosed, the challenges he’s faced have been the inability to play sports and activities like before—the physical aspect of his life having been infringed upon.
A smoker of about 30 years, he says when he started taking Daliresp, he was shocked by the severity of the side effects.
“After a week, I was pretty convinced I would stop taking it. I went back to my doctor and he did some oxygen level tests. After a couple weeks we talked again, and the nastier side effects had gone away,” he says. “I saw significant changes in my breathing, and it was worth putting up with the side effects. The weight loss was, in my case, a benefit which probably contributed to my improved stamina.”
Huckstepp says he believes that what has had a big influence on the quality of one’s life is how people perceive themselves.
“If you perceive yourself as a victim, it will reduce your quality of life significantly. If others perceive you as a victim it will reduce your quality of life even more. Life should be lived to the fullest, in spite of your limitations.”
DALIRESP is a prescription medicine used in adults with severe COPD to decrease their number of flare-ups or the worsening of COPD symptoms (exacerbations). For more information about it, please consult your doctor.