By Marygrace Taylor
Being diagnosed with COPD doesn’t mean you have to spend your life on the sidelines. Just ask cyclist Mark Junge. He’s lived with COPD for more than a decade—but hasn’t let it stop him from conquering the world on two wheels.
After being told in 2003 he had COPD, “I was sitting in the recliner with my remote thinking, Is this what I’m going to make of my life?“ says 72-year-old Junge. Knowing he’d feel happier and healthier if he were active, Junge began spending hours at the local YMCA on a stationary bike. Then, he got the idea to ride across the country. “I decided yes, I can do this,” he says.
And in the summer of 2004, that’s exactly what he did. With his wife Ardath driving ahead in a van, Junge made the journey from San Francisco to New York in just three months, covering roughly 50 miles a day. Since then, he’s ridden across swaths of North America almost every summer—including trips from Newfoundland to Key West, and Tijuana to Alaska.
Of course, none of Junge’s trips would have been possible without the help of portable oxygen. Last year, for a cross-country cycling trip with his brother-in-law, he strapped his Philips SimplyGo Mini on the back of his bike. Other times, he turns to portable liquid oxygen devices such as the Philips GoLox. “What makes it really great is you can wear it on your hip, and it weighs three and a half pounds. You don’t notice it’s there. I’m just like everybody else,“ he says.
Portable oxygen devices also have enabled French cyclist Philippe Poncet, who was diagnosed with COPD in 2008, to stay active. After a friend suggested the two begin cycling together, Poncet decided he was up for the challenge. “When I saw that mountain I thought, Bloody hell, there’s no way. But yes, I have to do it,” he says.
And after conquering one seemingly impossible mountain, Poncet knew there was no going back. In 2013, he climbed Espigoulier’s Pass, a 9.5-mile mountain pass near Marseille. The next year, he set the first hour world record under oxygen assistance on France’s Hyères-Costebelle Velodrome. And in June, he broke the world speed record on the 200 meter race in the southern France.
Sure, Poncet might be an elite athlete. But he still believes that anyone with COPD can use portable oxygen to be active in whatever way works for their life—be it cycling up a giant peak or simply taking a stroll down the street. “Every step we do, it’s a new adventure,“ he says. So, what’s yours?