I used to be very fit. I ran three London Marathons and got lost in the Harlow Marathon in the 80s. I cycled thousands of miles and took my daughters and our bikes to France, Holland, and Germany. I also took my bike to Ireland and Bohemia. But not now. My bike was stolen and I didn’t replace it. I get out of breath with COPD. Nevertheless, I still do things and rest more often. I have taken medications since I was 21 when diagnosed with epilepsy, and after a decade with occasional grand mal fits, they stopped. I am 74 and have a life of work, adventure, and travel behind me. I used to run, walk, play badminton, cycle, swim. I had inexhaustible energy. Not now.
I organize dances and love everything about dance, but some years ago I found myself out of breath dancing. I own two pairs of dancing shoes, now redundant. I was diagnosed several years ago with COPD and have two kinds of inhalers. I also take diuretics, Allopurinol for gout (which I got by being on too many drugs), Phenobarbital for too much electricity in my temporal lobe, and Aspirin for my heart. In spring 2015, when I was 70, I went to Australia for 42 days with just one inhaler and some barbiturates. It was wonderful. I am an experienced independent traveler. That December I got a cold and chest infection, then pneumonia, and was in the hospital for three weeks. I was finally released on Christmas Eve feeling wiped out and fragile.
I had a bad exacerbation early one morning in 2015 and couldn’t breathe. I share my house, but no one else was home. I am deaf, so I don’t use the phone. It was very frightening because I was powerless and ineffective. I saw a figure in black beckoning me but I said, “No, no, I am taking my niece Louise to Australia in March.” It seemed like death beckoned. It wasn’t fear that gripped me right then, it was the inconvenience. I tried two inhalers but I made little progress. Eventually I was exhausted, so I went back to bed to await whatever would happen. I was able to sleep.
I learned about rescue drugs during another chest infection episode, so now I have some at home. I also have a week’s worth of antibiotics and a week’s worth of steroids. I brought a course of these and flew to Calgary in 2017 to see my younger brother, feeling better every day. I photographed his wife’s 70th birthday party and we flew to Hamilton to see our oldest brother, who had dementia. We took him out of the residential home where he lived for tea and cake.
In December 2018 I needed a rescue course at the beginning of December and one at the end. Then I stopped using the lovely perfume my daughter had bought me. It is now June, and I haven’t needed a rescue.
I renewed my passport, but I don’t know if I will leave Britain again. I don’t want to be ill abroad, but I do buy insurance. I have loved traveling and have been to many places. I write stories and I post some on the MyCOPDTeam site.
This article was written by MyCOPDTeam member Val as part of the Member Spotlight series. Val was a nurse for 20 years and believes in practicing random acts of kindness.
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