When I was first diagnosed, I was under the impression that COPD was a death sentence... and in a short time. I was experiencing depression, and I knew I had to find a way out of that. I started to research COPD. I wanted to learn everything I could to slow the process down and even see if it was possible to stop COPD from progressing. There is an enormous amount of information out there, and lots of it is doomsday stuff. Then I noticed that sources focusing on gloom and doom were selling a product of some sort, and the places that weren't selling anything had helpful information. About this time I became a member of MyCOPDTeam and started learning from the experts—the people who have COPD and have had it for several years.
Yes, COPD complications can lead to death, but not next week. With proper care you too can have a close to normal life. Granted, you won't be entering too many dance contests or running and jumping with the 6-year-olds—I don't know too many adults who attempt that even without COPD. So, you have to slow down a bit, take better care of yourself, take a nap now and again, but above all you have to keep moving. I got myself a pedometer, and I shoot for four miles a day. The days I make it, I treat myself to something I like—a popsicle! If I don't make it, I sometimes just treat myself anyway. My friends have all been great and treat me well. Of course we are all oldsters, and some of us are in poorer health than others. Among my friends there are three of us who have different severities of COPD, and mine is not the worst.
It is a bit of a challenge with my kids though. I have to remind them often that I can't walk fast, and I have to stop often because I get short of breath. My muscles also start doing crazy things; like my balance is affected and my back muscles tighten up. After a little bit they catch on, until the next time. I have no problems with my wife, as she was a nurse for 45 years and just goes at my pace. Of course she is no spring chicken, but she is faster than me.
I kind of wished when I was diagnosed that I was given a better prognosis and an upbeat outlook for the future. During the course of my learning curve I found that attitude plays a very big role in how my day will go. If I get up and am depressed, then my whole day will be that way unless I change my attitude myself. And even on days that I am short of breath, with a good attitude the whole day isn’t that bad. We can all look back and say I shouldn't have done this or that, but you know the saying, "Hindsight is 20/20.” Spilt milk... what's done is done. Humans can forgive other people's indiscretions in the blink of an eye, but we find it difficult to forgive ourselves. We have this disease, but if we take care of ourselves we can figure out how we can live good lives with this illness rather than trying to fight it or deny it. We can live a dang good life.
I live in a three-story house and I have to go up and down the stairs several times a day. I don't run up those stairs, I take my time. The object of going up the stairs is not to see how fast I can do it, the object is to get to the next level. So what if it takes me two minutes or four minutes? The destination was achieved, which is the only thing that matters. It's funny, I have found this new way of living and looking at the world around me, and I am enjoying this slower pace.
Would I rather not have COPD? Sure, but that's not going to happen. So I have to find ways to have a good life while living with it, not wishing or denying I have it. So what does COPD mean to me? It’s an illness, but with proper treatment I can have a good long life with it. How has it impacted my life? At first it impacted my lifestyle a lot and my relationships, but now hardly at all. It’s surprising what the right knowledge will do. I'm glad that I had to search for the information that I now use every day. I only wish that I was given a better prognosis when I was diagnosed. All the information I dug up was because I felt there had to be a better way.
This article was written by MyCOPDTeam member Johnny as part of the Member Spotlight series. Johnny is a retired commercial fisherman who enjoys taking care of teacup poodles.
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