Ask the Advocates: Advice for the Newly Diagnosed
One piece of advice for those who are newly diagnosed with COPD:
There’s power in knowledge, so educate yourself about COPD. Get your information from reputable sources that will give you accurate and useful information – such as COPD.net. Don’t believe everything you hear from well-meaning friends and relatives. Hopefully if you don’t already have a pulmonologist, you soon will. They and their team will be a great source of information and support. They can point you to information, local support groups, smoking cessation classes, nutrition support, and much more. Take advantage of anything and everything they provide.
A good quote I love is: “Do the best you can with what you know today, and as you learn better do better.” I think this quote applies very well to COPD. So, you have a diagnosis of COPD. It’s usually caused by something you inhaled every day earlier in your life. This something is usually cigarette smoke, but it may also be something at your work. So, don’t be down on yourself about what you did in the past. Most people did what they did to get by in life, and we didn’t know any better back then. Doctors didn’t even know any better. Just know that what you do now is what matters. By working with your doctor, and being a good patient, you can slow the progression of COPD. You can have many more quality years. I have seen people walk marathons with COPD. I have seen people live over 30 years after a diagnosis.
When I was first diagnosed with COPD, the best thing I did was research the disease. I found out everything I could about what COPD was, what causes it, what the symptoms were, what each stage meant, what the different medications were, and what the prognosis was. I still research things about it, such as how the weather affects it, what exacerbations are, and how to delay the progress of the disease. I definitely ascribe to the old adage of: Knowledge is power. COPD becomes much less scary when I know what’s going on and why.
Take charge of your own health! It’s your body and you are the expert about how you feel and what works for you. Work with your health care team as an equal member. Educate yourself about your disease, potential treatments and how it will progress. Research (using reputable resources), ask lots of questions and speak up for yourself. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all need help now and then.
One piece of advice I would give is to keep anxious thoughts at bay. Taking care of mental health is important. Fear and anxiety can increase because with reduced O2 levels, there can be reduced cognizance. Your mind can play tricks on you.
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