COPD's Impact on Us
by Kathy Wolford
Note: Kathy has agreed to allow us to post this. It was originally posted on the EFFORTS list.

Jacquie - I want to answer your question on how COPD affects us.  First, I also have restrictive lung disease, cor pulmonale and asthma (for 12 years) and my FEV1 is 33%.

Though it was obvious I had breathing and heart issues, it was shocking a year ago when my pulmo put a name to it -- COPD -- and prescribed oxygen. The same week, an aggressive pulmonary rehab program opened at my local hospital and I jumped at the chance to go.  A couple months later, I found EFFORTS.

Looking back, I can see COPD affects every part of my life.  Time becomes an issue, because everything takes longer when I'm pacing and lugging oxygen and, with exercising up to 2 hours a day, doing treatments on the neb and a part-time job, the remaining time dwindles.

Vulnerability becomes an issue.  Although I may live for 20 years, I could die tomorrow from a lung infection but am also vulnerable to the consequences of having an auto accident, a dog slip a leash, or a rescue inhaler left behind.

Faced with these problems, I did everything I could that they said in rehab to do related to exercising, relaxing, eating well, sleeping.  I talked with family and friends, read EFFORTS mail, reread favorite poems and passages in books that had inspired me, listened to music that soothed me, read and reread Mark Mangus' emails on windedness, meditated, wondered, thought and prayed; and step by step, day by day, my reality shifted and my priorities changed.

Little accomplishments began to bring me satisfaction, like learning to change a bed without tiring. Little things brought me pleasure, like seeing a piliated woodpecker, receiving an email with a few kind words, finding a quote I liked in Ruby Sands' Thoughts & Quotes.  Less time made me lower expectations of myself.  Less money made me simplify.  Finding muscles
growing everywhere on me made me confident.  My family and friends became more important to me.

Some days, the whole world seemed different to me, and I realized it was me and not the world.  Often I wasn't aware I was changing; sometimes I painfully knew.  For instance, I noticed a sig line on some woman's EFFORTS emails (sorry I can't remember who) that said something like: I'm fine, it's my body that is broken, etc.  I reread it a couple times and thought I
forgot about it.  Walking across a mall parking lot a few days later, the meaning came to me and I began to cry.  I sat in my car and cried and cried, first tears of sadness from the tragedy of it and then joyful tears as I saw the truth and beauty and knew I was free.

I could go on and on, Jacquie, but I think you get the picture.  Today, a year after diagnosis, a day rarely passes that I don't see my fragility, my shortcomings, the battles yet to be fought; and, yet, I am happier, healthier, calmer, more confident, more effective and have more fun.  I believe, Jacquie, the same will be true for you.

Kathy W, Pa., counterpoint@penn.com

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