COPD journey: from denial to acceptance

COPD journey: from denial to acceptance

You might feel that COPD had taken a lot away from you, and that your life – as you knew it – is gone. So, what do you do about feelings that get in the way of you having your best possible life with COPD? 

In this series of blogposts, “Take Back Your Life” Framework series, we’re going to look at seven common emotions found in life with COPD and learn from the experts – people who have been through, or are still going through, the same things you are. You can use these stories as pathways to help you begin to work through these issues, so you can go forward to live your best possible life with COPD.

“I don’t have COPD or emphysema. I was just fine until I got that last cold. This is just bronchitis.” Does this sound familiar? It’s been said that denial is nature’s way of giving us a good night’s sleep. Well, that may be true to some extent, but it can’t hold up forever.

Meet Tom, a hardworking businessman with a drive to work hard and keep on going, no matter what. Here, in his own words, is his story.

Age 31...I didn't have any problems. We were moving into a new house and my father, a healthy non-smoker of 71, was helping me. After moving a heavy desk a relatively short distance, he was left gasping for air. I never thought much of this until recently.

Age 39...I didn't have any problems. We were out skiing first thing in the morning. I made a run to the bottom and fell in a heap. After catching my breath, I tried to get up, but the snow was too deep, and I just wallowed around. It took me ten minutes of struggling and resting to finally get back on my feet. I thought I was going to faint.

Age 54...I didn't have any problems. I was at my daughter's high school basketball championship game...a see-saw game with the crowd going wild. Suddenly I realized after a cheer that I had nothing left in my lungs. Gulp, gulp, a little air, please.

Age 61... I went skiing and found that I could barely walk uphill more than 100 feet. I finally had a hunch that there was something wrong.

Age 63...I checked in with a pulmonologist who sent me over to the hospital for testing. Sure enough, I was operating with less than 40% of my expected lung capacity. He had suggestions about how I could manage my disease. But, of course, things got in the way, and I put it off.

Age 64...I was standing in the grocery store gasping for breath...I had an infection, my lungs were full of liquid, and I flat-out couldn't breathe.

So, I entered pulmonary rehabilitation. I guess my first thought when I was clearly told, and shown, that there was hard data that I had COPD was, "Well, let's get to work fixing this mess."

My life now is just as it has been these last ten years...except I am in rehab for two hours a week, I lift weights, I use pursed-lip breathing, and I plan ahead and start breathing early when I know I'm headed for some stairs. 

I guess I was in denial for a long time. But now, after facing COPD head on, learning about it, and doing all I can to manage it, I have to tell you – my Quality of Life is better, and I have no doubt that my Quantity of Life will be better, too.


Copyright ©2023 Jane M. Martin

This series of blogposts is based on the “Take Back Your Life” Framework and the “Take Back Your Life” Framework Companion Guide, Pathways to Helping You Live Your Best Life with COPD and Live Your Life with COPD – 52 Weeks of Health, Happiness, and Hope by Jane M. Martin, BA, CRT.

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