Life After EFFORTS

When I was sixteen years old, I started to emulate my idol - the lady across the street.  She and her husband both smoked and I thought it was the classiest thing to do. That was 48 years ago. Even after I lost my husband to a smoking related illness in 1985, I kept on smoking - telling myself that I would quit "tomorrow."  You know what they say about tomorrow?

I must admit, now that my period of denial is over,  I knew many years ago that I was heading for trouble.  Blamed my shortness of breath, my fatigue, my lack of energy and endurance on stress. Would not admit that I had a serious illness.  After all, the doctors never said that I did and they should know.  I was able to work two jobs, keep house, do all the chores that most women have to do.  Yard work, you name it.  I used to paint, wallpaper, laid a slate floor - refinished furniture - took wood shop classes and mademy own furniture - have a kiln and made ceramics - even made my own molds.   Had a craft business and took part in shows, sewed, knitted, crocheted, took up oil painting and became a computer junkie.

Now, if I have the energy to brush my teeth or wash my face, I consider the day off to a successful start. After a couple of bouts of bronchitis this past fall, my family doctor finally sent me to a pulmonary specialist.  Actually, it was the nurse-practisoner who did that.  The lung doctor diagnosed me with 'significant emphysema.'  Prior to that, I had several doctors always tell me that my "lungs sounded good,' and a specialist in asthma and allergy tell me that if my peak flow meter readings went too low, he'd put me in the hospital. . Not one of them until this last one mentioned the Big "E".  It was always bronchial asthma, asthmatic bronchitis, or a uri.  Shortly after my diagnosis in November, 1997, I ended up in the hospital with a mega-bronchitis and stayed for two weeks.  Haven't smoked since.  I was smoke-free for my 64th birthday in March.

When I was first diagnosed, I thought that my life was over.  I was ashamed to let anyone know what was happening with me - wouldn't let anyone see me get winded, avoided going upstairs - which was getting harder to do at work.  I had to sit in the car for about 5 - sometimes 10 minutes and try and catch my breath before I could start the engine.  I would come home from work and head right for my computer - get lost in cyberspace.  Then, I found  EFFORTS and my life changed.

Through the internet, I met a group of folks just like me.  Folks who are in all stages of COPD, representing all adult age groups,  who had the same fears, challenges, sadness, anger, denial that I had.  These folks taught me that I am not alone, shared with me their joys and sorrows, their warm hearts, their humorous moments, and yes -- there  are a lot of those! -- taught me that my life is far from over. I was taught the benefits of exercise and the dangers of not exercising.  Taught that there are things to do, people to see, ways to get things done and lots of excitement left for me to experience.  The EFFORTS family is living proof that love expands to
encompass whoever is in its embrace.  There is always room for another and the more the merrier.  Now, I can welcome those new to the group and assure them that yes - there is life after EFFORTS.  Enjoy it!
-Joan Esposito-