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Olympic and World Champion Swimmer Maggie Mac Neil: “I understand the real fear of not being able to take a deep breath”

What do a well-read 68-year-old father who always speaks his mind, a Torontosinger/songwriter with a rosy outlook on life and an adventurous Victoria B.C. non-smoker have in common with elite Canadian athlete Maggie Mac Neil, who will defend her gold medal and world record in the 100m butterfly at the Paris Olympics next summer? 

The answer is resiliency. Mac Neil, along with Scott Bailey, Joey Neale and Katie Hulan are all survivors of respiratory disease, the third leading cause of death in Canada, according to the Lung Health Foundation (LHF), the nation’s leading go-to public resource for education, awareness and research of lung disease.

Their united message is this: “We are survivors. If you are worried about your breathing; if you are struggling to breathe, seek help from a healthcare professional. When you get ahead of it, hope happens. Through shock and depression, remain motivated and envision a positive future. There is a treatment out there for you, and the Lung Health Foundation is there to guide and support you.”

Visitors to LHF’s digital platform have free access to Canada’s up-to-date library of lung disease prevention, protection, education and awareness programs available, including the popular and in-demand virtual Fitness for Breath, Smoking and Vaping Cessation Quash App, My Lung Health Coach and Lung Health Helpline, where callers can talk directly to Certified Respiratory Educators about a gamut of lung health-related issues and challenges, including asthma, COPD, lung cancer, pneumonia, RSV, immunizations, inhalers, medications, breathing conditions, and indoor and outdoor air quality.

Olympic swimmer Mac Neil joins forces with LHF for '7 Days of Giving' in December

Mac Neil, who is one of 3.8 million Canadians currently living with asthma, joins forces with the Lung Health Foundation as an Ambassador advocating for the prevention, protection, education, awareness, research and funding necessary to close the knowledge gap when it comes to lung disease as part of LHF’s inaugural 7 Days of Giving running from December 11. The year-end nationwide donation initiative follows the journeys of those impacted by lung disease.

“I am one of the lucky few who has defied the odds to excel in a sport that demands endurance, stamina and healthy lungs,” says 23-year-old Mac Neil. “It hasn’t been easy, and for kids under the age of 14, it is one of the most chronic diseases and a leading cause of school absenteeism and hospitalization.” The lung health advocate adds that Lung Health Foundation has her support as the most accessible platform available to help close the knowledge gap about achieving respiratory control – even among Canadians already living with respiratory illnesses.”

Mac Neil, who was diagnosed with asthma at 17, says she wants to show that kids living with asthma and other respiratory diseases “can still be active – and even pursue sports at the highest level if they choose to. They can accomplish anything they put their minds to. For me, it’s about promoting healthy and active lifestyles for people with asthma, regardless of age. I want to bring awareness to this.”

Lung disease in the spotlight

According to LHF CEO Jessica Buckley, the need has never been greater to help those living with lung disease and to help prevent future generations from suffering the debilitating effects of struggling to breathe. She says, “Bringing attention to lung health is vital for all Canadians. If we don’t, diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will grow into a nearly $10 billion health crisis in Canada by 2030. There is an urgent need for investment in lung health.” 

  • Lung disease impacts 1 in 5 Canadians.
  • Lung disease remains the most underfunded, overlooked, and under-researched health challenge in Canada.
  • More Canadians die from lung cancer than colon, breast and prostate cancer combined.
  • It is estimated that 1 in 4 Canadians will develop COPD.
  • More than half of those suffering from COPD today are in long-term care or senior homes.
  • COPD is the #1 cause of hospitalizations in Canada.
  • LHF estimates that 750,000 young Canadians between 15-30 years old are daily vapers. Youth who vape are 3.6 times more likely to start to smoking cigarettes at a later date.
  • The flu and pneumonia consistently remain in the top 10 leading causes of death in Canada.

Day 1 – Breathe Easy This Holiday Season: Supporting Asthma Awareness with Maggie Mac Neil

Day 2 – Give the Gift of Breathing: Supporting COPD Fighters with Scott Bailey

Day 3 – Igniting Hope: Lighting the Way for Lung Cancer Warriors with Joey Neale & Katie Hulan

Day 4 — Don’t Cancel your RSVP: Support Immunization Initiatives this Holiday Season with Dr. Samir Gupta

Day 5 – A Smoke-Free Future: Empower Youth to Quit Vaping with Mika’il Visanji and Bianca Mammarella

Day 6 — Invest in Breath with Dr. Dawn Bowdish: Fuelling Life-Saving Lung Health Research

Day 7 – Building Stronger Lungs for All with LHF CEO Jessica Buckley: Fostering the Next Generation of Healthy Lungs and Donors

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